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In retrospect, Ernie Els believes he should have played a bit more aggressively. (David Cannon/Getty Images)
In retrospect, Ernie Els believes he should have played a bit more aggressively. (David Cannon/Getty Images)

Els rues unlucky 13th hole, which cost him his chance

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Ernie Els rocketed into contention Sunday with a front-nine 33, but wound up tied for fourth. A crucial bogey on the short 13th did him in, he said, but he believes his strong showing this week proves he can again win major titles.  

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland (PA) -- Ernie Els has pinpointed the one Carnoustie hole that he believes cost him the chance of victory Sunday at the Open Championship.

Els carded three birdies and no bogeys for a 33 on the front nine to play himself into contention in the final round. But the South African slipped up on the back nine, making two bogeys -- and he blamed the one at the par-3 13th for doing the fatal damage.

"I think 13 was the shot that cost me the tournament," he rued, after winding up in a share of fourth place with Australia's Richard Green. "I really had a nice start and was hitting the ball nicely, but just around the turn I lost momentum.

"At 11 I thought I made that putt, but the ball didn't turn, on 13 it just came up short and I made bogey," he added. "I put it in the worst spot of the week on 14. I had a beautiful second shot in there and just never got on the line. I really needed that putt.

"I missed the fairway on 15 and made bogey," he said. "The holes coming in are so tough."

The world No. 4 was well aware that for a time he was in the frame to vie with Spaniard Sergio Garcia and Padraig Harrington, with the Irishman going on to win the tournament in a playoff.

"It's hard to be very pleased. I love this championship so much and I had a chance -- I did have a chance," Els continued. "I was only one shot out of the lead for a good hour or two. So not to finish is kind of difficult.

"I think if I had made putts I would have been really close," he added. ?But Padraig played great. He obviously made the putts and we missed."

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Els, 36, has won three majors, including the 2002 Open, but has struggled to recapture his best form after incurring a knee injury two years ago. But his week at Carnoustie has given him renewed belief that he can get back to his former level.

"It's been very difficult. It's been difficult on myself, the family, a lot of people," Els said. "So I'm trying my best, I'm trying to do what I should do. This game, it's a very difficult game at times. But it's like my caddie said to me, we are getting close and I keep saying it and I keep saying it: I am getting closer.

"I've got to get myself in these positions more often. I played a little bit defensive this week; I could have been a bit more aggressive," he added. "And I think when the putter starts changing I think a lot of things will start changing. There's been some good signs these last two days."

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