Scott throws it all away as Els wins

Sun, Jul 22, 2012, 01:00

Golf:Ernie Els won the British Open by one stroke from Adam Scott after the Australian suffered an extraordinary late collapse on an incident-packed final day. Scott, chasing his first win in one of the big four events, started the last round with a four-shot lead and seemed to be cruising to victory as he maintained that cushion with six holes to play.

But a late attack of the jitters saw him drop strokes at each of the last four holes to allow South African Els to slip in through the back door and lift the coveted Claret Jug with a two-under-par 68 giving him a seven-under total.

It was Els's fourth major championship. Scott's sad 75 meant he had to settle for second place on six under, three shots ahead of former world number one Tiger Woods and Brandt Snedeker. Graeme McDowell, playing alongside Scott in the final pairing, also had a day to forget as he dropped back to two under after a 75.

Scott looked set to win his first major title at Royal Lytham when he birdied the 14th hole of his final round to stand 10 under par, but the 32-year-old Australian then bogeyed the next three holes. Els, second and third when the Open was staged at Lytham in 1996 and 2001 respectively, had finished in style with a birdie on the 18th to complete a closing 68 and set the clubhouse target on seven under par.

Scott found a fairway bunker off the 18th tee but still had the chance to force a four-hole play-off after hitting his third shot to eight feet, but missed as Els looked on from the putting green. It means the Open has been won by a 42-year-old for the second year in succession after Darren Clarke’s victory 12 months ago, while Els’ fourth major title comes 10 years after his last, when he lifted the Claret Jug in Muirfield after a four-man play-off.

Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood were in reflective moods after finishing their bids with unspectacular final rounds. World number two McIlroy signed off with a 73 to end on eight over par, two shots worse than third-ranked Westwood who completed the tournament with a 72.

"It wasn't the start that I wanted to get off to, four-over through four," said McIlroy."I wanted to get off to a fast start both days, yesterday and today, and did the complete opposite. So I was struggling from early on."

The 23-year-old, who started promisingly with an opening 67 at Lytham, thought he had found the cause of his inconsistent play on Saturday."I had a good practice session on the range last night and feel like I found something good there," he said."So that's something that I can work on. I'm obviously very disappointed because I felt like I was coming in here playing pretty well. I had a really nice first round, set myself up well for the week and then just started to struggle after that."

McIlroy said he would just have to remain patient."If it doesn't happen over the next couple of weeks, no big deal," he said. "It's a 20-year career so I'm not going to get too wound up just over a few weeks. I've got to keep working away, plugging away, working hard on the right things and eventually it will come around."

Westwood's long wait for a first major title will continue."I've felt pretty calm in the major championships," the 39-year-old Englishman said. "I've had a lot of good chances and nearly won quite a few. I made the cut. I didn't have much of a game coming in here. So I didn't expect too much."

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