| ERNIE ELS
London: Ernie Els was named the European Tour’s Player of the Year on Thursday after winning six titles worldwide in 2002, including the British Open at Muirfield.
In addition to his Open triumph, the 33-year-old won the Heineken Classic in Melbourne, the US PGA Tour’s Genuity Classic, the Dubai Desert Classic, the World Match Play title at Wentworth and last week’s Sun City Challenge in his South Africa.
“This is the perfect end to a perfect year,” Els said on the European Tour website.
“It is a fantastic honour and caps a wonderful season in which I finally achieved my lifelong ambition of winning the (British) Open and my wife Liezl gave birth to our first son Ben.”
“My goal at the start of the season was to add one more Major to my two US Open titles and I achieved that — although I had to do it the hard way,” added Els, who beat Australians Stuart Appleby and Steve Elkington and Thomas Levet of France in the Open playoff.
Els was chosen for the award by a panel of judges from the Association of Golf Writers, television and radio.
The South African was nominated ahead of compatriot Retief Goosen, Ireland’s Padraig Harrington, Scot Colin Montgomerie, Eduardo Romero of Argentina, Sergio Garcia of Spain, England’s Justin Rose and victorious Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance.
Goosen, winner of the award last year, topped the European order of merit for the second consecutive year ahead of Harrington, while Rose and Garcia were also in the running after their multiple-win seasons.
Torrance was considered for his inspirational captaincy during Europe’s Ryder Cup triumph at The Belfry, where Montgomerie was in outstanding form as he secured a record 4-1/2 points out of a possible five.