Els knows the hurt of losing majors and other hurts much more profound. His nine-year-old son, Ben, is autistic, and Ernie and his wife, Liezl, have raised millions for autism research. "It's tough, man, because you have this big sportsman, 6'4" Ernie Els, and he loves cricket and football and golf, and he'd love to do those things with his son, and he really can't," Els's longtime caddie, Ricci Roberts, said on Sunday night. Els has lost long periods to stewing. "But at some point I had to say to him, 'It is what it is. You have to get on with your life.'"
Els said the same thing. He said he has learned to have his family life on one track and his golfing life on another. When he won on Sunday, Liezl, Ben and daughter Samantha, 13, were in London.
But the truth is that life's most complicated things don't separate out so neatly. Roberts realizes that. "Ernie knows when he wins, he's helping the autism fight," he said. Roberts's boss said, "I made a lot of putts today with Ben in mind, because I know Ben's watching. I was trying to keep him excited, so I made a lot of putts for him today." None was bigger than the 15-footer he dropped for birdie at the 72nd hole.
Els knows there are things more important in the world than winning the British Open. Maybe that's why he was able to snatch up a surprise victory on a windy day in Lancashire, when the leader rode a bogey train to second place, when Tiger invented a new yoga position and when a boy in London for whom words are a mystery cheered excitedly every time his father rolled in a putt, until there were no more putts to roll in. The Champion Golfer of the Year.