Ernie Els joins nephew Jovan Rebula for 27th and possible final appearance in U.S. Open


PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – This could be Ernie Els’ last U.S. Open. The USGA gave him a special exemption for a second consecutive year, making Pebble Beach his 27th championship appearance. And while Els has won two U.S. Opens, the family will be talking about this one for quite some time as the World Golf Hall of Famer tees it up at Pebble Beach with nephew Jovan Rebula in the field. The pair have played practice rounds together every day since Sunday and dine together each night.

“I would never in my wildest dreams have thought that I’d still be playing,” said the 49-year-old Els, “and, two, he’d be playing with me at a U.S. Open. It’s fantastic.”

Rebula earned his spot in the field when he won the 2018 British Amateur, becoming the first South African to win the title since 1966. The Auburn senior played in both the Masters and the Memorial this spring. His mother, Carina, is Els’ sister.

“This whole last year has kind of been me just sitting on cloud nine,” said Rebula shortly before teeing off Wednesday alongside 2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell, Shane Lowry and Uncle Ernie.

Rebula, 21, stands 6-foot-3, inching toward 6-foot-4, and hopes to fill out like his uncle. He’s a well-mannered, well-spoken, engaging young man who treasures any time spent with Els.

U.S. OPEN: On TV | Photos | Tee times | Betting odds | Fantasy

“The more I get to spend time with him now the more I realize what a big deal he is,” said Rebula. “It’s not necessarily what he does on the golf course that fascinates me – it’s the person that he is. It’s his cool and calm demeanor. He’s always willing to help anyone out. That’s more the aspect that I respect and admire about my uncle.”

Auburn coach Nick Clinard first watched Rebula compete at the IMG Academy Junior World and was impressed with his beautifully rhythmic swing.

“He looks like a young Easy,” said Clinard, who back then had no idea the two were related.

Els actually won Junior World, beating Phil Mickelson in a playoff.

Rebula learned the game from his grandfather, Els’ father, and has never had a formal swing coach. Els has given him pointers along the way, though Rebula says his swing is mostly a natural movement. He’s especially grateful for his uncle’s help on how to think.

Clinard considers Rebula’s mental game to be his strongest asset, calling him a humble guy who never lets the game define him. A strategic player who has a fifth gear (i.e. an extra 20 yards) if needed, Rebula’s short game is especially strong. Els calls him an old-school player ­– fairways and greens.

“He’s starting to hit it past me,” said Els, “finally.”

Rebula won the 2019 SEC title in a four-hole playoff and will compete in an all-Auburn pairing for the first two rounds alongside Jason Dufner and Patton Kizzire. He was actually playing golf with Dufner back at Auburn last week just before the tee times were announced. Kizzire was the first to text him the news.

It will be a comfortable pairing for Rebula, who expects to hear “War Eagle” from outside the ropes.

Els knows all about Auburn’s traditions having attended the Iron Bowl with Rebula over Thanksgiving break.

“I’m pretty sure he had a great time,” said Rebula. “He was up in the boxes with Bo Jackson and all the greats of Auburn.”

As for this week, Els’ expectations for his own game are fairly low, though his back feels better. There is hope, he said, especially at a place like Pebble, which has always been special to him.

Els tied for second at the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble, saying he felt like a sideshow to Tiger Woods, and came in third here in 2010. He hopes to have a great week in his own way. After all, this could mark the end of an era.

And with Rebula, the beginning of a new one.

“He’s got what it takes to be able to play out here,” said Els. “There’s no question.”

.
© 2009-2017 SendtoNews Video Inc.
All video content, images, logos, and trademarks presented on this site are the property of their respective owners.