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Ernie Els putts during a practice round Monday ahead of the British Open that begins Thursday in Muirfield, Scotland.

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Els back to defend British Open championship

Ernie Els climbed out of the back seat holding the shiny claret jug he won last year at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, and he promptly handed it over to Royal & Ancient chief executive Peter Dawson. Now it’s up to the 43-year-old South African to reclaim the silver prize, and that doesn’t figure to be easy. Els won last month in Germany. He won the last time the Open was played at Muirfield in 2002. He has more top 10s in the British Open than any other major. But he has this piece of history working against him — the last major champion in his 40s to successfully defend his title was Old Tom Morris, and that was 151 years ago.

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