From the PGA Tour: South African Els pips Scott to Claret Jug
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Before the initiation of play for Sunday’s final round of the Open Championship in Lytham St Annes, UK, Australian Adam Scott held a four stroke lead over his nearest rivals Graeme McDowell of Ireland and American Brandt Snedeker.
A few hours later, with only four holes left to play in the year’s third major championship, Scott was still holding a formidable four stroke lead on his march to the clubhouse and expected glory.
So what exactly happened over those remaining four holes you might ask?
The answer is dreadfully simple. Scott’s day of glory turned into the winter of his discontent in just four holes.
Standing on the 15th tee at 10 under par with South African Ernie Els now in 2nd place, four strokes behind, it seemed inevitable that Scott would claim his first major championship after years of heartache. But inexplicably, Scott started leaking and failed to make par from the 15th bunker.
Then, in what seemed a surreal turn of events, he missed his par putt on 16th from three feet. He was now two strokes ahead of the steady Els.
Scott’s shot from the fairway on the 17th was planted in heavy grass left of the green, eventually leaving him a lengthy putt for par, which he missed.
Three-time major champion Els was now playing the 18th hole and was only one stroke back. Scott’s caddie, Steve Williams, a man who was on Tiger Woods’ bag for 13 of his 14 majors, could do nothing to reverse the 32-year-old Australian’s demise.
Els ended up making an unlikely birdie on 18 to tie Scott at seven under par.
In a more defensive mode, Scott now reached for his three wood on the 18th tee instead of attacking the fairway with his driver.
The freeze had set in and Scott landed his drive into a pot hole bunker, having to pitch it out. His approach shot landed about two meters away from the pin. He turned to his putter to attempt a par and force a playoff but his putt went left as he buckled on the green in distress, knowing he had given away the championship to Els.
Els, who is a close friend of Scott, could barely watch the latter implode. He actually apologized to Scott as he was accepting the Claret Jug.
“You’re a great player, a great friend of mine,” said Els. “I feel very fortunate. You’re going to win many of these.”
I can’t recall the last time a victor said sorry to the vanquished for winning. The wind was merciless during the final round but Els still managed to shoot a two under par 68. But Scott only had himself to blame for the collapse.
“It was a very sloppy finish from me,” he said. “And it was disappointing to finish that way. I played so well all week. I wasn’t even really out of position and I managed to get myself in some trouble and couldn’t make the putts to get out of it during the last four holes.”
The Lancashire coast was kind to the 32-year-old Scott at the end of play after Thursday’s first round, as he took the lead at six under par over three others at five under.
Brandt Snedeker shot a splendid six under par 64 in round two to take the lead at 10 under with Scott in second place at nine under after he posted a three under 67 in round two.
Snedeker couldn’t hold the pace on Saturday as he dropped to 2nd place with his 3 over par 73 in the 3rd round. Scott on the other hand kept the pressure on scoring a notable 2 under par 68 in the 3rd round to take the lead at 11 under par going into the final stanza.
But 15 holes was all Scott could muster on Sunday as Els went the distance. With 4 major championship wins Els joins American Phil Mickelson in 2nd place among active players behind Tiger’s 14.