Els' arrival big deal at Canadian Open

Ernie Els, of South Africa, holds up the Claret Jug after winning the British Open golf...

Ernie Els, of South Africa, holds up the Claret Jug after winning the British Open golf championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes, northern England July 22, 2012. (REUTERS)

KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:27 PM ET

ANCASTER, ONT. - Ernie Els pulled into the parking lot at Hamilton Golf and Country Club and the world came to a standstill.

Word travels fast and before he could emerge from the car, he was surrounded by well-wishing fans.

His star burnished and glittering from his dramatic British Open victory Sunday, Els promises to be a rock star at the 2012 Canadian Open this week.

He later drew a big crowd on the practice range and on the first tee and then the week's first significant gallery trailed him through a few practice holes before he was whisked away by helicopter to a dinner for the charitable group 'Right To Play' in downtown Toronto.

Always popular, Els' has been in decline for some years but his game has emerged again this year, much to the delight not only of his many fans, but of his fellow competitors, too.

"Us players always know what Ernie is," said Brandt Snedeker, who finished tied for third with Tiger Woods at Royal Lytham and is in this week's field.

"He's one of the best ball strikers ever. He's a phenomenal talent. And we knew if he ever putted well again ... he's had a great year.

"He's still relatively young. He's still in his low 40s. And it's great for golf because Ernie's a great guy to have on leaderboards, playing golf tournaments, great ambassador for the game. And he passes the litmus test in golf. If you ever watch him play, you understand why he's that good. He makes everything look so easy and effortless.

"It was such a great moment for him, I know, since everybody kind of passed him over and thought that he was done winning majors, for him to be able do at this age. Wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility to see him win a couple more, wouldn't be surprised to see him win a Masters again now. So it's good to have him back."

The folks at the Canadian Open quite agree.

STRONG FIELD

The quality of the field for the Canadian Open is always a sensitive subject but organizers don't have to make any excuses for the 2012 renewal.

It's not a major championship and should never be compared to one but the field this week encompasses a better-than-average collection of talent and star power.

Ernie Els, of course, is the big draw but the newly-crowned British Open champ is just one of 10 players among the top 24 money-earners of the year on the PGA Tour who are here.

Players in the field have won 17 major championships and there are 10 here who have won PGA events in 2012, including Hunter Mahan, with two victories.

Els will tee it up at 1:10 Thursday afternoon along with Matt Kuchar and Vijay Singh. They'll be followed immediately on the first tee by Mahan, defending champ Sean O'Hair and Mike Weir.


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