Els: "Claret Jug's in good nick"

7/15/2013 1:15:04 PM
Ernie Els with the Claret Jug   (Getty Images)
Ernie Els with the Claret Jug (Getty Images)

Ernie Els today handed back a well-travelled but spotlessly clean Claret Jug ahead of the defence of his Open Championship title at Muirfield.

Twelve months ago 2011 winner Darren Clarke admitted the famous trophy was "not quite in as good a condition as I received it in" when he returned it to R&A chief executive Peter Dawson.

But, although it has been around the world - "Everywhere except probably South America," Els said - in the year following his triumph at Royal Lytham & St Annes, the South African insisted it was in good shape.

"To come back as defending champion and give the Claret Jug back to the R&A is always an honour. It was a nice moment," Els said.

"It went all the way around the world and I have taken some great photographs of it with friends and family. That's the great part that comes with it (winning the Open); you can have the actual trophy and take it for a year. It was a wonderful time.

"It has been cleaned and buffed and was very shiny when I gave it back. Not as much buffing was required as in 2003. We are getting a little older. It did very similar travels but a little different juice was drunk out of the jug."

Els' victory at Lytham last year, when he took advantage of Adam Scott's late collapse, came ten years after his previous Open title was secured in a play-off the last time Muirfield staged the Open in 2002.

"I'm very proud of the way we have stuck with it," said the 43 year old, who had won three major titles in eight years before his ten-year barren streak. "Having had to work hard for it means it feels very special.

"I really can't wait for Thursday, I have a good feel about it. Since my first practice round two weeks ago it's amazing how the course has changed. The course is getting firmer and faster and accuracy will be at a premium."