OPEN GOLF: Els snatches Claret Jug from ScottJuly, 2012 News & Tour
How the South African won his second Open against the odds at Lytham
With four holes to go of the 141st Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes, Adam Scott had a four-stroke lead. An hour later and Ernie Els was the Open champion.
It was an extraordinary turn of events. Scott, imperious all week, suddenly faltered to finish with four straight bogeys.
Bunker trouble at 15, a three putt at 16 and an approach into thick greenside rough at the 17th were how the first three arrived.
Meanwhile Els found a birdie of stunning quality at the final hole, a drive leaving him just 100 yards or so and a putt that rattled in dead centre.
When Scott found sand off the last tee, he had to rely on a short iron and a single putt to force the play-off. In truth, it never looked like going in.
And so a man who won the most recent of his Majors exactly 10 years ago, and who many thought was finished as a challenger at the very highest level, now has a pair of US Opens (1994 and 97) and a pair of Open Championships (2002 and 12) to his name.
It is a fitting reward for a man who had previously finished second and third at Lytham in the Open and who has posted more rounds in the 60s at this championship than anyone else in history.
Apart from his win at Muirfield in 2002, he has finished in the top 10 on a further 11 occasions. Now, at the age of 42, he joins a select group of 27 men who have won the Claret Jug on multiple occasions.
Els has posted more rounds in the 60s at this championship than anyone else in history
Rounds of 67, 70, 68 and 68 gave him a total of 273 and he was one of only eight players to break par – despite benign conditions for much of the week.
It was desperately hard on Scott, who had looked to be the best golfer at Royal Lytham for most of the week. After 12 years of trying, he seemed to be making the winning of his first Major look a relatively simple task.
The 32-year-old played in his first Major at St Andrews in the the 2000 Open Championship. Having missed the cut, he earned a place at Lytham the following year, when he finished in a tie for 47th place.
Since then he has played in every single Major – an unbroken run of 45 events.
As his nearest challengers fell away on a final day when the wind was at least a factor – if never threatening the forecast 35mph gusts – only Els remained in touch, if distantly for most of the afternoon.
Tiger Woods had a triple-bogey seven at the 6th and thereafter was on the periphery, unable to mount a charge largely because he could not trust his driver. That left him firing into green after green with long irons – hardly the recipe for making a run of birdies.
He still finished tied for third, four shots behind Els, alongside halfway leader Brandt Snedeker. Rounding off the top six were Luke Donald – once again finishing fast at a Major but never remotely in contention – and Graeme McDowell, who for the second successive Major began the last day in the final group but could not seal the deal.
Next year, the Open heads for Muirfield– and Els will arrive there as both defending champion and the most recent winner at the home of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers.