July 22, 2012
South African golfer Ernie Els secured victory in the British Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club today after a thrilling fourth round. This is a serious return to form for a player who last took the honors in a major tournament at the British Open in 2002.
Before this triumph, the casual observer might have thought that Els was a player who had his best days behind him. He was famous as the winner of the 1994 and 1997 US Open as well as the 2002 British Open, and was top of the European Tour Order of Merit in 2003 and 2004. It might be a surprise to find out he is holds the record for weeks in the World Golf Rankings top 10 at over 780 (15 years!) and only Lee Westwood has won more money on the European PGA Tour.
Regular followers of golf might remember that Els flirted with the top of the leaderboard during the recent US Open and at one point was in second place, but fell down the rankings to finish in ninth. This was much better than the two previous British Opens when he missed the cut and went home on Friday night.
The Final Day
After the end of day 3, Els was sitting seven shots behind the overnight leader Adam Scott who started Sunday four strokes clear of Graeme McDowell and Brandt Snedeker and five above Tiger Woods. Going into Sunday, not many people would have expected Els to make up seven strokes and take the victory even if Adam Scott lost his way.
Els showed his consistency with a two under par final round of 68, following on from his earlier rounds of 67, 70 and 68. The other overnight leaders all carded an over par score on the final round to take them out of contention.
Adam Scott hit two bogeys on the first three holes, with a birdie in the middle and then followed with another bogey on the 6th. The next few holes were all played to par, but after a birdie at the 14th he hit a sequence of four successive bogeys to finish on 5 over par. Even with this, he still held the lead going into the final hole by one stroke over Els and only Els sinking a birdie swung the tournament away from Scott.
Tiger Woods, Graeme McDowell and Brandt Snedeker had all drifted away from good overnight positions on the first half of the course. Woods uncharacteristically hit a 3 over par 7 on the 6th hole, while Snedeker hit double bogeys on both the 7th and 8th holes. McDowell hit a total of seven bogeys to drop out of contention.
Even with the other players falling by the wayside, Els was still sitting a few shots away at the half way stage. By holding his nerve to sink four birdies in the last nine holes he took the lead on the very last hole to take the title and the £900,000 prize.