Weekly Tour Wrap-Up - Elated Els lifts Claret Jug
The third major of the 2012 season has now been completed and, whilst the first 68 holes weren't perhaps as exciting as the season's other majors, the last four holes more than made up for that.
One of the most popular golfers in the world capped off a fine resurgence by winning the Open Championship for the second time, a triumph that is arguably the most significant of his long and distinguished career. Years from now, let's hope we aren't calling the 141st Open Championship the most significant moment in the career of the runner-up; a supremely talented golfer whose astonishing collapse facilitate the victory no one could quite believe.
Thousands of miles away on the PGA Tour at the True South Classic, Scott Stallings defeated a weak field for his second tour victory and the first since his maiden triumph at the 2011 Greenbrier Classic.
Elated Els lifts Claret Jug
Ernie Els won his second Open Championship and his first major for ten years at Royal Lytham and St Annes in a tournament that will be remembered predominantly for Adam Scott’s amazing collapse. The old cliché that a golf tournament doesn’t start until the back nine on Sunday was proved true as the Australian – who look had looked in complete control all week – bogeyed his last four holes to finish one behind the Big Easy on six-under-par.
Scott flew out on the blocks on Thursday, and stood on the 18th tee knowing a birdie would give him a 62 – the lowest score in the history of the Open. He bogeyed three, but bounced back with birdies at four, six and seven to turn in 33. The Australian hit a purple patch on the back nine, recording five birdies in six holes from the 11th, but bogeyed the 18th after a pulled drive. Even so, his six-under-par 64 gave him a one shot after round one.
Scoring was good on Thursday, with a whole host of players taking advantage of the benign conditions. Former open Champion Paul Lawrie, big-hitting Belgian Nicholas Colsaerts and last week’s winner Zach Johnson were a shot further back on five-under-par, with home favourites Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy alongside three-time Open champion Tiger Woods on three-under par.
Without wind as a natural defence, the course again yielded some low scores on Friday. Brandt Snedeker, who had missed the cut in his three previous appearances at the Open, raced to the turn in 30 after birdies at one, six, seven and nine. He added two more at 11 and 12 before parring home for a 64 and a ten-under-par halfway total. Ominously, though, Scott was just one back after a second round 67, and Woods sat alone in third on six-under-par after rousing the gallery with a holed bunker shot for birdie at the 18th.
The pressure told on Snedeker in round three. He started solidly with six pars, five bogeys in his next six holes cost him his position atop the leaderboard. There was no such trouble for Scott, however, who birdied seven and eight to lead by five shots. Woods started badly in round three with bogeys at one and three, but turned in 33 to reach seven-under-par after birdies at six, seven and nine. Scott made another birdie at 11 to get to 12-under-par and stretch his advantage, although he dropped back to eleven under with a birdie at 13. Up ahead, McDowell was making a charge. After turning in 34 to stay at four-under-par, he birdied 13, 14 and 17 to hold the clubhouse lead on seven under. Woods would come home in a lacklustre 37 to end the day on six-under-par, five behind Scott (11 under). Snedeker secured his place in the penultimate group on Sunday with a spirited final few holes, making birdies at 16 and 18 to tie McDowell’s seven under total. Els entered the final round at five under, one better than Dane Thorbjorn Olesen.
All the challengers had spoken of the need for more hostile conditions on Sunday, and conditions didn’t let them down – the wind was blowing stronger than it had done all week when the top 10 teed off. Despite the conditions, however, no one made a challenge, with everyone except Louis Oosthuizen falling back on the front nine.
Woods started with five straight pars before a horror triple bogey on the par-4 6th. He took two shots to escape sand before an ugly three putt saw his fall back to three-under-par. At that point, he was seven behind Scott, who started bogey, birdie, bogey. Playing partner McDowell had tumbled back to five under, the score he would turn in. Another overnight challenger, Snedeker, had consecutive double bogeys at seven and eight to fall out of contention.
Things were looking good for Scott, and improved vastly after he McDowell bogeyed 10 and 11. Woods, who had mounted a mini-comeback, made three bogeys in a row from the 13th, and when Scott birdied 14 to get back to 10-under-par, he looked invincible.
The only one showing some fight was Els. He turned in 36 but rallied with birdies at 10, 12 and 14 to get to six-under-par. Scott, starting to realise the magnitude of his situation, bogeyed 15 and missed a three-footer for par at the 16 to fall back to eight-under-par. His drive on the 17th fairway found the middle of the fairway, but cheers erupted from the 18th green as he contemplated his second after Els rolled in a ten-footer for a three.
Feeling the pressure, Scott pulled his approach into heavy rough and was unable to get down in two to save par. Standing on the 18th tee, his lead had gone, and he needed to make par to force a play-off. His 3-wood found a fairway bunker and he was forced to chip out sideways, but he bravely hit his third to eight feet to give himself a good chance. He pulled his putt, however, and fell to his knees as he realised he had handed Els the title and thrown away a glorious chance to break his major duck.
Next week, the European Tour heads to Austria for the Austrian Open, with the PGA Tour moving outside American for Canadian Open.
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