There have been many players that have risen to the occasion for each major in golf evidenced by the 15 winners for the past 15 majors. The 16th major, The British Open at the Lytham and St. Annes Course in Lancashire, England was no different when it brought out the 16th winner in 16 events, 52-year-old, Ernie Els. The only real surprise was how badly the weather forecast was off for the tournament.
Instead of rain and wind, there was sun and calm for the first three days. Adam Scott was the early leader tying the course record at 64 on Thurs. Brian Snedeker charged forward after Friday's play. Going into Sunday, Scott had a 4-shot lead after more brilliant play taking him to -11. On Sunday Scott was paired with Graeme McDowell and Tiger Woods was paired with Snedeker for the last two groups.
Woods has a career of great play coupled by great shotmaking, very good course management, and good decisions. However, Hole No. 6 crushed Woods' chances of winning his 15th major. Poor judgment coupled by a chance to win by a great shot and possibly ego after having his playing partner, Louis Oosthuizen, on Saturday hit out of the same bunker, were his un-doing. Woods triple bogeyed, dropping 7 shots behind the leader Scott, when he could have taken an un-playable lie and have gone in with a par. To make matters worse he knelt down to hit his second shot out of the bunker, which barely cleared, and came out noticeably limping.
The same sixth hole with a wind out of the SW at 15 MPH, gusting to 30 MPH, also brought trouble to the last group. Both players, dropped a shot leaving Scott at -10 and McDowell at -6. The leaderboard had Snedeker at -7, Els at -4, and Woods at -3. Finally the links course with its 205 bunkers was playing like a true British Open, were until this year the 70-par course average was almost 2 shots over.
Woods then birdied Hole No. 7 going back to -4. Scott got an unbelievable break when he took a few practice swings, walked a few steps away, and his ball moved. The official ruled that there was no penalty. Ernie Els, who will be 53 this Oct., made a charge with key birdies and a 345 yard drive at 14 to 6 under, to stay at second place.
Scott would have been the second Australian after Greg Norman in 1993, to win the British Open, could not make a putt for a play-off. This is Els fourth major, and his best finish since 2006.
The entire last ten players' scores rose drastically with only Els under par at -2, winning the event from six shots behind with a birdie on 18. When Scott hit a bunker off his 18th drive, he lost his 1-shot lead, deja vu, Charl Schwartzel's birding the last four holes at the 2010 Masters. Els recovered from a two-year drought with his last win at the 2010 Bay Hill Invitational. The only good news is that the players survived, limping in, like Tiger finishing fourth at -3 and Snedeker third at -4. Scott had such a large lead going into the final round on Sunday where all those in contention had troubles at some point. Only Els stayed out of major trouble allowing him to come up the winner when the weather finally made it a true British Open.