Tiger Woods British Open: What Ernie Els' Win Means for Tiger's Major Hopes

Mike MoraitisAnalyst IJuly 24, 2012

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 23:  Ernie Els of South Africa (L) and Tiger Woods wait to play a shot during the second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge on March 23, 2012 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Make no mistake about it: Tiger Woods' fall from grace on and off the course has been unmatched in the history of golf, and, in some circles, sports in general. But if the British Open's finale taught us anything, it's that you can never count any golfer out.

Ernie Els, this year's winner of the British Open, hadn't been heard from in a big way for a very long time. Before winning at Royal Lytham & St Annes in 2012, it had been a decade since Els had won a major. It seemed that the South African would eventually just fade out of the consciousness of golf fans altogether without so much as a whimper.

Such an end to his career would have been unthinkable for the golfer who turned pro in 1989. Shortly after that, Els began winning tournaments regularly. At age 24, he captured his first major, the U.S. Open. Three years later, Els would capture his second major, also the U.S. Open.

His third and final major win before his victory at Royal Lytham & St Annes in 2012 was at the 2002 British Open. It had been a 10-year drought for Els, but all signs pointed to the South African making his way back to the top of the golf world.

Then came the worst drought of his career, the decade-long one mentioned above. Missing cuts and poor finishes became the norm for Els, and in that 10-year span he only managed to win eight more PGA Tour events—none of which came between 2005 and 2007—effectively making him irrelevant in the sport.

But all his misery and failure was erased after his major victory in 2012. Just when you thought Els was finished and couldn't compete at a high level anymore, he goes and stuns the world with his win at the Open Championship.

Woods' situation is slightly different in the sense that expectations for him have always been higher than any golfer in the sport's history. His fall from grace has been far greater than that of Els, but Woods has been far more competitive than Els was during his long period of struggles.

Tack on the fact that Woods is still winning lesser tournaments regularly—and by all accounts still has more talent than Els at this stage of his career—and you have a situation where it's just a matter of time before Tiger captures his next major like Els did this year.

But he must keep pressing on through all of his issues on the course and continue to have faith in himself that he can still win a major. If Els can become irrelevant for a decade and then come out of nowhere to win the British Open, why can't Woods recover from his problems and do the same?