South Africa’s Ernie Els has won the 141st Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes on the Fylde Coast by a single shot from Adam Scott of Australia.
10 years on from his last Open triumph at Muirfield, Els produced a superb back nine of 32 to set an impressive clubhouse target of seven-under-par. On an afternoon when the majority of the later starters were losing ground, Els fired an excellent final round of 68.
Still, when the South African rolled home a birdie putt on the final hole, it looked as though he would come up just short with Adam Scott holding a one shot lead.
The Australian had been well in control through 14 holes, four shots ahead of the field on 10-under-par. But he failed to get up-and-down from a greenside bunker on the 15th, missed a three-foot par putt on the 16th then pulled his approach into thick rough and failed to save par on the 17th. That dropped Scott into a tie with Els on seven-under-par. He needed a par up the last to force a playoff.
The 32-year-old took a 3-wood from the tee but it was a poor choice as his drive found one of the treacherous fairway bunkers that protect the final hole. He could do nothing but pitch out and was left needing to get up and down from long distance to stay in the competition.
He fired a solid shot into the green but, when his par putt missed on the left side, his race was run and Ernie Els had secured a fourth Major title.
“I’m just numb at the moment,” Els said after Scott had completed his round. “I really feel for him as he’s a great friend of mine. But, it’s the nature of the beast: you win, you lose and it was my time.”
Scott was, understandably disappointed with the final result, but he showed great character to be gracious in defeat.
“I played so well all week and I wasn’t even out of position coming in,” he said. “But I got into some trouble and wasn’t able to make the putts to get out of it. I know I’ve let a great chance slip through my fingers but, somehow I’ll look back and take the positives from it.”
The other contenders coming into the final round also conspired to throw their chances away.
Graeme McDowell was four behind at the start of the day’s play but he never really looked like getting on level terms with his playing partner Scott.
His shot at the championship was effectively ended on the par-5 11th. After an excellent drive, he had a look at the green in two but he played a terrible second – a heeled pull straight into the trees. He did well to save a bogey, bu he couldn’t fully recover from that point.
“Yeah that was a bad shot,” he said. “A card-wrecker. But, I hit a lot of good shots today. I had to hit level par to have a chance of winning this. Ernie did well to shoot 32 coming home and win, but he’s kind of been handed this as well.”
Tiger Woods came to grief on the 6th hole. His approach was a yard away from being perfect but it just caught the bunker and ended under the lip. He was unable to get out first time and then narrowly escaped with his fourth shot. Three putts compounded the error and he walked off with a triple-bogey seven. He eventually finished four back in a tie for third with second round leader Brandt Snedeker.
141st Open Championship
Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club, Lancashire
19-22 Jul, purse £5,000,000, par 70
1 Ernie Els (RSA) 67 70 68 68 273 £900,000
2 Adam Scott (Aus) 64 67 68 75 274 £520,000
T3 Tiger Woods (USA) 67 67 70 73 277 £297,500
T3 Brandt Snedeker (USA) 66 64 73 74 277 £297,500
T5 Luke Donald (Eng) 70 68 71 69 278 £195,000
T5 Graeme McDowell (NIR)67 69 67 75 278 £195,000
T7 Nicolas Colsaerts (Bel) 65 77 72 65 279 £142,500
T7 Thomas Aiken (RSA) 68 68 71 72 279 £142,500
Note: Player score in bold signifies Titleist ball usage