by Jeff Skinner
The final round of the 141st Open Championship had turned into a snoozer. Third round leader Adam Scott had a four stroke lead with four to play. The lead was more a result of the rest of the leaders all having backed up with bogey after bogey after bogey. Scott wasn’t overly impressive but he was playing steady golf. He was one over for the day after he birdied fourteen and looked to be ready to claim his long overdue first major championship.
Tiger Woods had imploded with a triple bogey from the bunker at the sixth. Zach Johnson was nowhere to be found after opening with three bogeys on the front nine. Brandt Snedeker had back to back double bogeys on the front nine to end his chances. Graeme McDowell had struggled most of the day and when he snap hooked his ball into the gorse from the fairway on eleven he was finished also.
As Scott ambled from green to tee the analysts had stated the obvious, Scott had one hand on the Claret Jug. But that’s when things took a surprising turn. The only golfer in the last three groups to be under par was Ernie Els and he wasn’t ready to concede.
Els, like all the other leaders made no move on Scott on his front nine. But when Els made the turn he finally started to sink some putts. He birdied ten, then twelve and then fourteen. He was now at six under for the tournament but Scott still held the lead. When his birdie putt on sixteen slipped past he looked to have a lock on second place.
Unfortunately Scott had started to visit places on Royal Lytham & St. Annes he had never seen before. The bunkers and rough he had avoided all week now seemed to pull his ball in like a magnet. And the par saving putts he made all week now refused to fall.
With bogeys on fifteen and sixteen his lead was down to one on the seventeenth tee. Scott’s wayward approach on seventeen resulted in his third straight bogey. About this time the roar went up from eighteen as Ernie Els sank a putt for his fourth birdie on the backside and move to -7 and Scott’s lead was gone. He now needed a par on eighteen just to force a playoff. It seemed unbelievable that in less than an hour’s time Scott’s lead had disappeared.
Scott had to be shell shocked as he lined up his par putt on eighteen to try and get into a playoff with his good friend Els. His luck had turned for the worse on the back nine and the eighteenth green was no different. The putt slid by as Scott dropped to his knees and the meltdown and the tournament were over. Scott finished five over for the day with four straight bogeys to finish in such a painful ending it was hard to watch.
Much will be made of Scott’s poor finish. They are already comparing it to Jean Van de Velde’s implosion in 1999. This will be tough for Scott to take but he’s a world class player and will have many chances to prove he’s major worthy.
For Ernie Els it is a dream come true. Els has been working so very hard the past few years trying so hard to win another major. At his Hall of Fame induction in 2011 he said he wasn’t finished yet. He still wanted more wins and specifically more majors. Now his quest has been fulfilled with his fourth major. Ernie holds two U.S. Open Championships and two Open Championships. That’s rare air and Ernie certainly deserves to be content with his accomplishment.
It’s a great win for an even greater man, Ernie Els: Champion Golfer of the Year.