Skip to main content

Ernie Els Pulls Off British Open Shocker


So did Ernie Els win it? Or did Adam Scott lose it? Both. The agony and the ecstasy of golf were on full display at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, and when it was over, Els had his second Claret Jug and fourth major, and Scott had first-hand knowledge of what it feels like to be Greg Norman. Or Jason Dufner.

On a day when the field was retreating like Napoleon from Russia, Els posted a back-9 4-under 32 in the stiffening breezes of Royal Lytham, rolling in a clutch birdie on the 72nd hole before grabbing a sandwich and watching Scott implode with bogeys on the final four holes. It was an utterly shocking turn of events on a day that seemed like a Scott coronation until the heartbreaking conclusion. 

Through 11 holes, it seemed utterly hopeless. Noted stat geek Ken Pomeroy had Els, who was 6 shots behind at the turn, with a 3 percent chance of winning. Scott kept finding fairways and greens, and his closest competitors at the start of the day — Graeme McDowell, Brandt Snedeker and Tiger Woods — never mustered anything resembling a charge, finding bunkers and rough as though they were ball magnets. Woods in particular made a colossal mental error that essentially ended his chances, attempting a miracle bunker shot on 6 that led to a triple bogey (and possibly a re-tweaked knee). 

But a Scott bogey at 16 left Els standing over a 12-foot birdie putt on 18 with a chance to post 7-under and get within a shot. Els drained the putt and unleashed what was for him a stunning show of emotion. Clearly rattled by the roar up ahead, Scott found gnarly greenside rough with his approach on 17, leading to another bogey and a tie. On 18, after splitting fairway after fairway, Scott found a bunker off the tee. After pitching out sideways, Scott mustered one final stand, nailing his approach within 10 feet, but the par putt to tie just slid past.

Els now has major championships in three different decades and four majors for his career, tying Phil Mickelson for second-most of the Woods era. 

Woods and Snedeker tied for third a 3-under, while World No. 1 Luke Donald grabbed a back-door top 5, tying McDowell at 2-under.

Worst Collapse?

So where does Scott's meltdown rank among major collapses? Well, Jean Van de Velde's triple bogey on the 72nd hole at Carnoustie when a double would have won is still the gold standard for major gags. Norman's final-round 78 at Augusta in 1996 is up there. Even the great Arnold Palmer blew the 1966 U.S. Open, losing a 7-shot lead with 9 holes to play. I'll put Scott in a class with Dufner, who held a 5-shot lead over Keegan Bradley with four holes to play at the 2011 PGA before three straight bogeys and two Bradley birdies put the two in a playoff.  

- by Rob Doster

Follow me on Twitter @AthlonDoster