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Jovan Rebula poses with his uncle Ernie Els and Els’ wife Liezl during the Association of Golf Writers Annual dinner during the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Club last July.
By Kent Gray
Much has already been made of Jovan Rebula’s showdown with Dubai amateur prodigy Rayhan Thomas at next month’s 30th Omega Dubai Desert Classic. Only time will tell if their battle develops into anything noteworthy but you can be sure Thomas won’t be the only celebrated name in the cross-hairs of Rebula, the 21-year-old reigning British Amateur champion.
The South African will also get another European Tour crack at uncle Ernie Els after the four-time major champion and three-time Desert Classic winner was confirmed on Wednesday for his 17th appearance at the $3.25 million event at Emirates Golf Club from Jan. 24-27.
Els edged their showdown at last week’s South African Open in Joburg, won by an emotional Louis Oosthuizen, after finishing T-15 on -8, two shots and nine places ahead of Rebula who still played remarkably well to win the Freddie Tait Cup for low amateur honours following rounds of 67-70-70-71 at Randpark Golf Club.
They even savoured the chance to play together in the third round:
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) December 8, 2018
“We are really excited to welcome back such an iconic golf legend for his17th appearance in our tournament,” tournament director David Spencer said of the World Golf Hall of Famer who first won the Dallah trophy in 1994 before triumphing again in 2002 and 2005.
“Ernie is always a crowd favourite and he obviously has a special history on the Majlis course. To have both the Big Easy and the Little Easy playing together alongside Louis [Oosthuizen] will give a really special South African storyline to the tournament.
“He may be turning 50 next year, but a fourth victory will be within his grasp.”
Els still holds the Majlis course record, an opening round 61 set in 1994. The 12 birdies and 21 putts helped secure Els his first European Tour victory aged 24 and is a record that remains intact today, 25 years on.
Eight years later, Els, who owns a pair of claret jugs and two U.S. Open titles, won by four shots from the Swede Niclas Fasth before rolled in a 20-foot eagle putt to edge Welshman Stephen Dodd and Spanish legend Miguel Ángel Jiménez in 2005 to complete his Desert Classic hat-trick.
Els is the only player to have won the Omega Dubai Desert Classic three times. In his first 11 appearances, Els did not finish lower than 11th including three wins, three runners-up and three third place finishes.