Richardson finds faith as Els hits form

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Richardson is the 19-year-old former Middlesex boys' champion, playing in his first Open championship; Ernie is Els, the 35-year-old major winner playing in his 14th Open, the championship he won at Muirfield in 2002 and threatened to win on numerous occasions since 1992. Richardson and Els played in a practice round here and it does not seem to have done either of them any harm.

"There's been so many tournaments where my knees have been wobbling and my whole body has been going,'' said Richardson, an amateur who yesterday shot 69 in the second round, following a 75 in the first. It leaves him on level par for the championship and he will survive the half-way cut.

It is not a dissimilar story with Els, who shot 74 in the first round and 67 in the second. The South African is at three under par for the tournament and that also represented a huge swing.

"That's what I needed to do,'' said Els, who made eight birdies, but the brake on a sensational round was applied by three bogeys. "I'm still making mistakes,'' Els admitted, "but I'm more comfortable after the start I had made.''

Twelve months ago it all looked so easy-peasy for the Big Easy when he was in control of the Open at Royal Troon but subsequently lost the shooting match to Todd Hamilton in a four-hole play-off. It was such a shattering turn-around, there were those who suspected that Els might lose the will to win another major. Apparently not so, not even after the imperial progress here of Tiger Woods, whose first-round score of 66 was eight strokes better than Els's.

"Given the best player in the world's excellent start, it wasn't a great way to begin the championship,'' Els admitted. "He really did play well and I didn't, but I'm not going to stop going now. I've got some birdies going my way and I need a lot more of those over the next two days. I know what I've got to do. Somehow I've got to try to get to 15 under par. I know it's saying a lot, but I might be close with that number.''

Els is probably kidding himself. He was asked, before Woods went out to start the second round: "Are you going to church to pray for a hell of a wind this afternoon?'' Els replied: "It would be nice, wouldn't it? A bit of wind, a bit of rain. It's pretty nice out there. Who knows what's going to happen?''

Els seemed to be whistling into the wind, if there had been one. He is not called the Big Easy for nothing. After his dispiriting first round, which seemed to have left him hopelessly adrift, he was asked: "How long did you practice for and was it mainly putting?'' Els replied: "Well, I was going to practice a little bit and then it started raining, so I thought I'd skip back into the house. I know what I want to do with my putting, it's just a matter of getting yourself to do it under competition conditions. I was a bit more committed and subsequently I made some puts. It kept my round going.''

As relieved as Els was to turn his championship around, Richardson was ecstatic: "You've got to control every shot,'' the teenager said. "I've played so solidly the last two days, I'm absolutely chuffed.''

Richardson played with Ernie; what might he do if he played with Tiger?