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Els qualifies for Kapalua with Open win

July 22, 2012 - Robert Collias
One of the favorites sons of Kapalua's Plantation Course — Ernie Els — will return to the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in January after his dramatic win in the Open Championship that was completed a few minutes ago.

Els has simply provided some all-time highlights at Kapalua — his epic duel with Tiger Woods in 2000 and his scoring-record 31-under-par romp in 2003 will go down in history.

And now, as a major champion for the fourth time, he will be back at one of his favorite places on earth. With the future of the tournament as we know it in some question with the start of the PGA schedule shifting to the fall, the field for 2013 just got a major shot in the arm. Els' return is, of course, not official yet, but he will be there, mark my words.

Anyone who watched Els' acceptance speech while clutching the Claret Jug — Els telling Adam Scott that Scott's epic collapse would be erased by many major titles and thanking 94-year-old Nelson Mandela for his leadership of South Africa — could feel the class that Els exudes.

Woods is much more of a question mark. He has won three times this year to move into second all-time in career wins with 74, eight behind Sam Snead, but his mark is made in majors. He finished tied for third at Royal Lytham & St. Anne's, but his 3-over 73 in the final round means he has been under par on a major weekend round only once since winning the 2008 U.S. Open. His mojo just isn't what it once was.

Woods has not been to Kapalua for the last seven years — for reasons varying from injury, to the death of his father, to his well-documented infidelity, to simply not qualifying as a PGA Tour winner the previous year — after competing on Maui for the first seven years of the tournament. And the event lost a close friend to Woods when Gary Planos left the tournament in 2011.

Will Woods be back here? It is a question we won't know the definitive answer to until the official field is finalized a week before the event in five months — and his return would be huge, no question.

Can Kapalua keep a spot on the PGA Tour schedule without him? With class acts like Ernie Els, there is no doubt it can and should.


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