Els wins British Open over floundering Scott
TONY JIMENEZ Reuters
Published on Monday, May. 27, 2013 11:25AM EDT Last updated on Sunday, Jul. 22, 2012 07:52PM EDT
LYTHAM ST ANNES, England - South African Ernie Els won the British Open by one stroke from Adam Scott on Sunday after the Australian suffered an extraordinary late collapse on an incident-packed final day.
World number 13 Scott, chasing his first major championship, started the last round with a four-shot lead and seemed to be cruising to victory as he maintained that cushion with six holes to play.
But a late attack of the jitters caused him to drop strokes at each of the last four holes, allowing South African Els to slip in through the back door and lift the Claret Jug with a two-under-par 68 and a seven-under total of 273.
“I feel a little numb at the moment,” the 42-year-old Els told the BBC after adding to his previous major victories in the 1994 and 1997 U.S. Opens and 2002 British Open.
“I feel for Adam, he’s a good friend of mine. I was just hoping at best to get into a playoff when I was on 17, then I birdied the 18th and heard what happened to Adam,” added Els whose victory extended to 16 the current streak of different major winners.
Scott’s sad 75 meant he had to settle for second place on 274, three shots ahead of former world number one Tiger Woods (73), whose hopes were dashed by an ugly triple-bogey at the sixth, and his fellow American Brandt Snedeker (74).
“I am pretty disappointed,” Scott said. “I managed to hit a poor shot on each of the closing four holes and they cost me. As I played so beautifully all week I shouldn’t let this get me too down.
“Surprisingly, I felt incredibly calm all the way round and I still feel calm now.”
Els played the best golf of all the leading players on Sunday and missed a host of birdie chances until suddenly making a forward move by picking up strokes at the 12th, 14th and 18th.
The smooth-swinging South African, who said somewhat prophetically earlier in the week that he was playing well and felt “something special” was just round the corner, rolled in a 15-foot putt at the last.
Els raised his arms in the air, high-fived his caddie and threw his ball into the grandstand before walking off the green sporting a wide grin.
Scott, by contrast, was a picture of abject misery 20 minutes later and appeared close to tears.
A three-foot par-saving effort by the Australian had agonisingly lipped out at the 16th before he hooked his approach into thick rough at the 17th and failed to hole out from 25 feet.
Then, at the final hole, he found a deep bunker off the tee and could only move his ball a few yards forward. Bravely, he struck a sumptuous approach to eight feet but his putt rolled past the hole and victory belonged to Els.
Els' surprise victory almost sounded like bad news for organizers of next week's RBC Canadian Open in Hamilton.
After accepting the Claret Jug for the second time in his career, the South African sent off alarm bells when he said he was "supposed to go to Canada but I think I'm going to blow that thing off."
Els later clarified that what he meant was he was unlikely to take the Canadian Open charter from England to Canada in order to spend some time with his family, who did not accompany him to Royal Lytham this week.
“We understand the considerable post-event demands on a champion following a victory and we appreciate that Ernie did not want to hold up the entire flight while he manages his commitments at The Open,” said RBC Canadian Open Tournament Director Bill Paul. “Ernie has informed us through his representatives that he will make alternate arrangements to get back to Canada for next week’s RBC Canadian Open and I’m sure Canadian golf fans at Hamilton will be very excited to welcome The 2012 Open champion to our event.”
Els was listed among a strong field of players confirmed by Golf Canada on Friday for the 103rd edition of Canada's National Open championship. Two-time tournament champion Jim Furyk, 2012 Players Championship winner Matt Kuchar and 2012 U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson along with 17 Canadian golfers are expected to be in the field when the tournament begins Thursday at the Hamilton Golf and Country Club.
Els is part of a group of world class golfers who make up Team RBC which includes Canada's own Mike Weir and Stephen Ames and PGA stars Fred Couples, world number one Luke Donald, Jim Furyk, Matt Kuchar and Hunter Mahan.
Most of the leaders struggled to cope with tricky winds on a warm summer’s day at the Royal Lytham & St Annes links, none more so than 14-times major champion Woods.
The American, with zero confidence in his driver, chose to play long irons off most of the tees but his title push unravelled in spectacular style when he took a seven at the sixth, his first triple bogey in a major for nine years.
With his ball tight up against the wall of a steep greenside bunker, Woods had to take evasive action as it rebounded back towards him following his first attempt to get out.
He then sank to his knees perched on the edge of the trap and, with one leg extended to keep his balance, he made a strong contact with his ball which struck the lip of the bunker and squirted out across the green.
Woods, who had birdied the sixth in each of his opening three rounds, then missed a 40-foot putt for bogey and a five-footer for double-bogey before gratefully sinking his third attempt.
He bounced back by chipping in for a birdie at the seventh but the damage was done.
“The game plan was to fire it into the bank, have it ricochet to the right and then have an angle to come back at it,” said Woods of the calamitous sixth hole.
“Unfortunately it ricocheted to the left and almost hit me. Overall I’m pleased with the way I played, unfortunately just a couple here and there ended up costing me some momentum.”
Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion, also had a moment to forget at the 11th.
He was left with a face almost as bright as his pink shirt when he shanked an approach shot with his wood at the 11th over the head of the spectators 50 yards away, straight into an unplayable lie in the trees.
World number one Luke Donald signed off with a 69 to finish in a share of fifth place with McDowell (75).
Second-ranked Rory McIlroy completed a disappointing week with a 73 for an eight-over total of 288 while world number three Lee Westwood carded a 72 for 286.
Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts shot the round of the day, ripping up the course with a five-under to 65 and a one-under tally of 279.
With a report from John Marchesan