Ernie Els fond of Open

Reigning British Open champion Ernie Els is hoping to improve on last year's share of fourth place when he tees off in the Open at CordeValle in San Martin, Calif., on Thursday.
2012 British Open champion Ernie Els is the marquee name competing in the Open. (Chris Chambers/Getty Images )

Ernie Els suggested that playing in the Open last year helped him achieve a major victory this year. He is hoping it can happen again.

Els tied for fourth last year in the Fall Series event at the CordeValle Golf Club in San Martin, Calif., his best finish of the season. He topped that in a big way this season, winning the British Open for his fourth career major.

"It's beautiful," Els said. "I love coming here."

"Even before last year, we did some outings out here for SAP and I always enjoy coming out here. It's great staying on the property here.

"With weather like this, I mean, you can't beat it. It's just a wonderful place to play golf.

"Obviously, you would like to play well to make it an even nicer experience, but it's nice to be back and obviously looking forward to the week. Golf course is playing a little differently.

"It's a little firmer. Scoring should be good, so I'm looking forward to it."

European Ryder Cup player Nicolas Colsaerts also is in the field along with Vijay Singh, U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III and recent college stars Patrick Cantlay, Luke Guthrie, John Peterson, Patrick Reed and Kelly Kraft.

Colsaerts is trying to earn a PGA Tour card. As a special temporary member, he needs to finish the equivalent of 125th on the money list to earn a full 2013 card. The Belgian player has earned $652,886 US, enough now for the 120th spot.

"When you get a chance to play this tour with all these players, the courses you play on such a big stage, it would be stupid not to consider it," Colsaerts said. "I've always played in Europe for a lot of years.

"It's an unbelievable tour to play on and get your grades up, but once you get a taste of what the possibilities here are, you know, they get you pretty excited."

Guthrie, a student at the University of Illinois who turned professional this year after the NCAA tournament, won consecutive Tour events last month in Boise, Idaho, and Midland, Texas, to wrap up a 2013 PGA Tour card as a Top 25 finisher on the developmental tour's money list. He's second on the money list with $382,463 US, and also has earned $284,672 US in three PGA Tour starts — all Top 20 finishes.

"I believed I could compete at that kind of level out here," he said. "I didn't know how I was going to handle that amount of golf.

"You don't play that many four-round tournaments until you get out here, which it's fine for a couple weeks because the adrenaline is going. But after a couple months to keep playing well was nice and to keep it rolling.

"I'm happy with how I've responded."

Last year, Bryce Molder won his first PGA Tour title, outlasting Briny Baird with a birdie on the sixth hole of a playoff.

"You get to relive some of the cool memories, so that's certainly been the one thing I noticed for the week," Molder said. "But also more than just trying to defend your title, you become an ambassador for the Open.

"It's been a lot of fun and I look forward to that carrying on in the future. It's a great event.

"It's so fun being back here."