South African Els, a three-time major winner, briefly moved into a share of second place during Sunday’s final round before closing with a two-over-par 72 in difficult scoring conditions to finish three shots behind champion Webb Simpson.
“I’m contending again … and that means a lot,” Els wrote on his official website (www.ernieels.com) on Monday. “I feel I have a chance now and that I could win another one of these majors. I’ve got my belief back.
“Right after finishing my final round at Olympic I was disappointed to have let slip a chance to win my third U.S. Open, but having had a night to sleep on it I can reflect more clearly on the positive aspects of my performance.
“My mental attitude was good all week and I played really well on what was a very tough golf course. I had a couple of train wrecks, on holes four and 16, and ultimately I guess they cost me the tournament.”
Els, whose last major victory came a decade ago at the British Open, recorded a double-bogey at the fourth and a triple-bogey at the 16th in the opening round at Olympic.
After making three early bogeys in the third round, the smooth-swinging 42-year-old roared into contention with three birdies and an unexpected chip-in for eagle at the par-five 17th.
In the final round, he rolled in a curling 20-foot eagle putt at the driveable par-four seventh to move briefly into a tie for second but bogeys on the next two holes derailed his title bid.