What we witnessed at the Open Championship this year is hard to fathom. Ten to fifteen mile an hour winds turned the last day into a slapstick circus act that included final round pie-in-your-face performances by Tiger (+3) who double wall-balled it out of the bunker on #6 on his way to a triple bogie, Sneds (+4) with back-to-back double bogies on #7 and #8, and Gmac (+5), who grew up with the winds of Northern Ireland as his teacher, befuddled by the with wind, carding 7 bogies over the last 18 holes.
But the biggest pie, the grand daddy of them all, was saved for Adam Scott who stood on the 15th tee with a four shot lead and four letters already etched on the Claret Jug and inexplicably played the final stretch four-over-par to lose to the Big Easy by one.
Ernie must have a regular Saturday foursome at Lytham. He was second in the Open Championship there back in 1996 and third when it returned in 2001. His play all week showed total mastery of the complicated driving script, especially on the difficult back nine. 32 on Sunday-four birdies over the last nine holes-capped a 7-under performance on the back nine over the four days. That lapped the field for the inward half. The crescendo created when he buried his birdie putt on 18 with authority to post 7-under for the championship clearly unnerved Scott who was half way down a vortex to infamy.
That trip for Adam was slow and agonizing-more a series of fender benders than a full blown crash and burn.
He missed a short one on 15 to make bogie, made a contortionist’s escape from a bunker on 16 only to miss another short one to make bogie. From the middle of the fairway on 17 he jerked his 170-yard approach into the fur back left of the green.
His playing partner McDowell remarked afterward, “Half of England is to the right of that pin and he missed it left…..the alarm bell started to ring. I thought, ‘Hold on, we’ve got a problem here’”. The result was his third bogie in three holes and he was now tied with Ernie sipping iced tea in the clubhouse.
Maybe the least understandable choice was on 18 tee where, needing par to make a playoff, Scott abandoned his strategy of playing iron off this tee in the first three rounds to avoid the bunker constellation in the driving area and pulled a three wood to try to set up a more aggressive approach hoping to make birdie and win the championship outright. The three wood did not slide to right as intended and left him in one of those revetted nasties with no shot at the green. He managed to play a third shot to 10 feet but the par putt never threatened the hole and the last chapter of this sorted tale was now in ink.
Ernie Els, a four time major winner, was as graceful in victory as Scott was in defeat. Among other supportive condolences Els shared with Scott afterward he said, “I’ve been there before. I hope he doesn’t take it as hard as I did.”
Bill Dwyre of The Tribune Newspapers said in his article, “Champions come along every day. Compassionate ones do not. On Sunday at the British Open, Ernie Els was there for everybody.”
That is true but there is a small lorry full of skeletons being FedExed to Adam Scott this morning. He will need a big closet and a very short memory to overcome the disappointment of this one that got away.