Three is a magic number: Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington each looking for three straight titles

three is a magic number: ernie els, padraig harrington each looking for three straight titles

Mar 28, 2024; Houston, Texas, USA; Padraig Harrington (IRE) drives off of the the ninth tee during the first round of the Texas Children's Houston Open golf tournament. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Threes are potentially wild for the 17th edition of the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open when tournament play begins Friday at En-Joie Golf Course.

There is Padraig Harrington, winner of each of the last two PGA Tour Champions events in Endicott. And there is Ernie Els, winner of the most recent two Tour events anywhere.

Those possibilities will assuredly be front and center as anticipation builds through the week of preliminary activity in what will be uncomfortably steamy temperatures throughout Broome County.

One annual highlight of the event will be staged Friday night following opening-round play. That’ll be a concert featuring Luke Bryan, maker of 30 No. 1 hits and five-time entertainer of the year.

“Stunningly spectacular” was applied on this website last year, when Harrington beat up En-Joie’s second nine Sunday — five birdies, one eagle for a 7-under 28 — to complete a round of 9-under 63 and become the event’s first back-to-back champion.

Joe Durant, 18-hole leader by three and Sunday’s pace-setter for much of the back nine, went 64-69-66 as runner-up, a shot better than Els, whose closing bogey left him a 68 and 16-under total.

Padraig Harrington of Ireland holds the trophy after winning the DICK'S Sporting Goods Open at En-Joie Golf Club on June 25, 2023 in Endicott, New York. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

Els won the June 7-8-9 American Family Insurance Championship in a playoff with Steve Stricker, a week after topping the field at the Principal Charity Classic in Des Moines (62-68-65). He is a five-time PGA Tour Champions winner with a stellar record at En-Joie.

“We’ve got an interesting storyline. What’s going to happen: Is Ernie Els going to win three in a row? Or is Padraig going to threepeat?” said tournament director John Karedes.

As for which would be more compelling? “I don’t know. You’ve got Padraig, who’s just an awesome guy, inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame (June 10), and you’ve got Ernie who I believe has two (top-threes) here.

“We’ve had guys like Ernie and Miguel and Darren Clarke who’ve come just oh so close. Oh, and let’s not forget about the sixty-some-year-old, Bernhard. When I went on social media and saw he’d gone a six-week period and all he could do was chip and putt, I told my colleagues, ‘You guys watch out. If this guy can only work on his short game for six weeks, you think about what that short game is going to be like when he comes back and he starts playing.’ What’d he shoot, 17-under a couple weeks ago?

“This is a course you know he can play well, it’s relatively flat so that should take pressure off any residuals he’s got from the injury.

“There are some great potential stories.”

Odds & ends

-- Stephen Ames, who’ll play his sixth Dick’s Sporting Goods Open this week, has won events this season by four- and three-stroke margins, respectively. That ranks him co-first and co-second in 2024. Ames has also built the largest 36-hole lead (three strokes).

-- Low start by a winner this year? Els went 10-under 62 in the Principal Charity Classic and Harrington went 8-under 63 in the Hoag Classic.

-- Most consecutive years with a win on Tour? Harrington and Steven Alker (2022-24).

This article originally appeared on Golfweek: Three is a magic number: Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington each looking for three straight titles

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