Son Ben was in mind while putting: Ernie Els

 Ernie Els, back as Open champion, remembered his nine-year-old autistic son at Royal Lytham late on Sunday night.

My boy: British Open champion Ernie Els watches his autistic son Ben imitate him in Florida last year. Pic/AFP

Els spoke with the Claret Jug alongside him while arrangements were being made for a helicopter flight back to London to see his family — a big change from 12 days earlier when he flew on Easyjet to the Scottish Open.

“I made a lot of putts today with Ben in mind because I know Ben’s watching,” the 42-year-old South African said. “He loves when I hit golf balls — he’s always there. He comes with me. He loves the flight of the ball and the sound.

“I know he was watching today. He gets really excited and I wanted to keep him excited today, so I made a lot of putts for him. Since revealing Ben’s condition four years ago the Els family have put all their energies into fund-raising and are hoping to open a multi-million pound centre in Florida soon.

Els also paid tribute to South African leader Nelson Mandela: “If I win, I told myself, I’d better thank President Mandela because I grew up in the era of the apartheid and then changing into the democratic era President Mandela was right there.”

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