Open Championship 2013 Blog

All good things must come to an end, and for Ernie Els his year as Open champion – or as Champion Golfer of the Year, as they like to call it in these parts – is about to expire.

This morning he arrived at Muirfield to return the Claret Jug to Peter Dawson, chief executive of the R&A, in keeping with Open tradition.

“It was a nice moment,” said Els, on returning his cherished yet only borrowed silverware.

“To come back to the Open as defending champion and give the Claret Jug back to Mr. Dawson, is an honour.

The trophy has been cleaned and buffed and it was very, very shiny when I returned it.”

Some Open champions celebrate by drinking out of the Claret Jug – “just the good stuff” as Sandy Lyle once said – while others consider the trophy too precious to actually perform the function for which it was originally designed – 2011 champion Darren Clarke claims to be among those.

As for Els, he put the Claret Jug to good use.

“Compared to 2002, how do I want to say this, it was a very different juice drunk out of the jug this time,” he explained with a broad grin, in reference to Els’ first Open triumph upon these very links in 2002.

“The Claret Jug has travelled to just about every part of the world with me over the past year. We have had some great photographs taken with the Claret Jug, with fans, friends and family, and that’s the great bit that comes with winning this championship. It has been a wonderful time.”

There is, of course, one way that Els can renew his term as Champion Golfer. As defending champion, and as a recent winner on the European Tour, and as a player who has finished fifth and first in the Open at Muirfield, it would not be a shock if the golfing stars aligned for Els once again this week.

There is another omen too: Els brought poor form to Muirfield in 2002, having finished tied 50th in the previous week’s Scottish Open, and he struggled in practice at Muirfield that year. This year he missed the cut at the Scottish Open altogether, so he is sure to contend.

Robin Barwick travelled to Muirfield with Mercedes-Benz, Official Patron of the Open Championship and a partner of three Major championships