The Open Championship
FINAL ROUND HIGHLIGHTS - VIDEO
July 22nd 2012, Lancashire, England: Ernie Els produced a stunning back nine 32 to pip Australian Adam Scott to The Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes.Ten years on from his last Major victory the South African could hardly believe he had become Open Champion again.
The 42 year old, the same age as last year's winner Darren Clarke, triumphed after Scott bogeyed the last four holes over the difficult closing stretch.
Scott, chasing his first Major, looked all set to become the first Australian to hold The Claret Jug aloft since Greg Norman in 1993 when he led by four shots with only four holes to play.
But he bogeyed them all and Els, having made a crucial 15 foot birdie putt on the final green 20 minutes earlier, suddenly found himself with a fourth Major title.
"It's the nature of the beast. That's why we are out here. You win, you lose and it was my time.
"I was hoping at best play-off. When I was on the 17th green he was on the 16th tee and, as we all know, it's not the hardest hole."
Scott failed to get up and down from a bunker on the 15th, then three-putted the next and while playing the 17th would certainly have heard the roar - the loudest of the week - for Els's last green putt for a 68 and seven under par aggregate of 273.
The "Big Easy", second at Lytham in 1996 and third in 2001, almost resigned himself to another near-miss. But things were about to change far more than he anticipated.
Scott pulled his approach into the rough, and when he drove into more sand down the last and had to hack out, Els had one hand on the trophy.
His Presidents Cup team-mate played a superb third to eight feet, but the par putt to force extra holes was pulled wide and that was that.
Having stood 11 under earlier in the day, he signed for a 75 and six under.
Tiger Woods, who also finished poorly in addition to taking a triple bogey, tied for third with fellow American Brandt Snedeker three shots further back, while Scott's playing partner Graeme McDowell ended up fifth with World Number One Luke Donald.
In his winner's speech Els told the crowd: "I had a lot of support this week. But you guys have got to ask yourselves the question were you just being nice to me or did you actually believe I could win?"
Scott retained his composure admirably, but must have been devastated inside.
"I'm pretty disappointed," he said. "I had it in my hands and managed to hit a poor shot at each of the closing four holes.
"I'm very, very disappointed, but I played so beautifully for most of the week I certainly should not let this get me down.
"Surprisingly I was incredibly calm and I still am. I thought I could roll that last putt in, but I didn't and that's golf."
Scott was on the verge of becoming the sport's tenth successive first-time winner in the Majors, but while that has now ended another run goes on - Els is the 16th different winner in a row.
Now with two Opens to go with his two US Opens, his front nine contained bogeys at the second and ninth and not a single birdie.
That left him six back, but he hauled himself back into things with birdies at the tenth, 12th and 14th to set up the remarkable climax.
McDowell was always playing catch-up and could not recover from bogeys at the second and sixth, the second of those seeing him take two in the same bunker that gave Woods so many problems.
The 14-Major champion - still to add to that tally since the 2008 US Open - almost hit himself as his first attempt to escape came back off at him.
Officials checked the video to make sure there was no contact, but he then had to play his next crouched on the grass way above the ball.
He did wonderfully well not to leave it in again, but the ball shot across the green off the face and from there he triple-bogeyed to fall seven behind.
It was the first time he had dropped three shots on one hole in a Major since he lost his opening drive at Sandwich in 2003.
The real killer blow for McDowell came with a six on the reachable long 11th - he lost his second in the bushes - that put him six adrift.
Woods and Els were up into joint second at that point, but the former found bunkers on the 14th, 15th and 16th and that ended his hopes.
Indian prospect Anirban Lahiri ended a dream week at The Open Championship on Sunday with a new self-belief that he can stand his ground against the world’s best players.
The 25-year-old signed off his major debut with a battling three-over-par 73 on a tough day at Royal Lytham and St Annes, finishing on three-over-par 283 and well ahead of the likes of former Open champions Padraig Harrington and Paul Lawrie and Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood, ranked second and third in the world respectively.
“I won’t be intimidated anymore. If I can come here and hold my ground, I can hold it in any event and any field looking into the future,” said Lahiri, who is a two-time Asian Tour winner.
“I am so much richer from the experience and confidence that I have gained this week. I think I’ve gained a lot of respect from the players. I think I can rate my game a bit higher now than when I came here initially.
“I feel I can come out here and play well, whether in Europe or America. I played with three different PGA Tour players this week and the same thing that Arjun (Atwal, who plays in the US) tells us, if you can shoot five or six under in India, you can do it in America as well. That’s the attitude that I should bring.”
The talented Indian dropped four bogeys against one lone birdie, which he recorded at the par three ninth – the hole where he recorded a magical hole-in-one during the third round. Lahiri came close to a grandstand finish on 18 when he lipped out a birdie attempt from 10 feet.
“It was special. Yesterday, I hit a bad drive on 18. Today, I hit a driver and blasted it as far as I can blast it and fly all those traps. That reflects how I was feeling on the course. I was telling my caddie that I’m not scared any more. I used to be four years back but not anymore. I think that’s a major point in my career,” said Lahiri, who played alongside American world no. 30 Nick Watney in the final round.
He said the walk up to the final green in front of record galleries at the Lancashire links will be forever etched in his memory.
“It’s been a great week. It was special walking up the 18th. I’m happy that despite I played poorly, I looked at the leaderboard and I thought I would have lost 40 positions. But I obviously didn’t play that bad. It’s been a dream week. I would like to come back again and again and keep playing well,” said Lahiri.
“It was a tough day. The winds were quite blowy towards the end. I didn’t really concentrate on the back nine. I think I could have made three putts less coming in. I was disappointed with how I finished. But I can’t complain.”
Jeev Milkha Singh, who finished seven shots behind Lahiri, predicted a bright future for his young countryman.
“I think it’s fantastic. He’s a youngster, he’s hungry and he wants to prove himself. I think he’ll do well. He’s got a lot of talent. He just needs to come out and prove himself. The sky is the limit for him. If he keeps working hard, keep working on the right stuff, he’ll do well anywhere in the world,” said Singh, who is a two-time Asian Tour number one.
“It’s good to see that there is a lot of talent in our country and they look up to us. If I put myself in their shoes, if these guys have done this, I would like to go out and do better. I think he’s got the full package. He’s good enough too. Just build on the confidence and he can win anywhere in the world.”
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