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Muirfield is No. 1 on Open rota, says Els

Ernie Els of South Africa watches his tee shot on the sixth hole during a practice round ahead of the British Open golf championship at Muirfield in Scotland on Monday. (Reuters)

Ernie Els of South Africa watches his tee shot on the sixth hole during a practice round ahead of the British Open golf championship at Muirfield in Scotland on Monday. (Reuters)

GULLANE, Scotland — Title holder Ernie Els believes Muirfield, the venue for this week’s 142nd British Open, is the finest links course on the championship rota.

The globetrotting South African is not only the defending champion, having won the coveted Claret Jug at Royal Lytham 12 months ago, he also won the season’s third major when it was last played at Muirfield 11 years ago.

“This course is right at the top of the list for me, right at number one,” the 43-year-old Els told reporters on Monday.

“It looks very similar to 2002. It’s a little firmer…but it’s a great course. It’s a wonderful design and the par-threes are unbelievable.

“The par-fives have been changed a little bit, they are longer, but each and every hole is different. Every links shot you could imagine, you are going to have to play it this week,” Els said.

“I really can’t wait for it to start on Thursday, I really have a good feel about it. The weather here has been unbelievably good recently and the course is getting firmer and faster.”