It couldn’t be anyone else but Ernie

It was a stunning four-under-par for the back nine that won the Open Championship for Ernie Els at Royal Lytham and St Annes on Sunday, but he needed Adam Scott to play his part too.

There is no explaining away Scott making four consecutive bogeys for his four closing holes, as he turned a three-stroke lead into a one-stroke loss – and gave Els his second Open Championship and his fourth major.

Els seemed to be letting the chance at victory slip from his grasp as he made bogeys at the second and the ninth. Behind him, Scott bogeyed his opening hole, birdied the next and made two more bogeys at three and six to leave the gap between the two just as it was overnight.

And when Scott birdied 14, it seemed it was all going to go the Australian’s way.

Els hit the turn, and then turned on the afterburners: birdies at 10, 12, 14 and 18 saw him soar to seven-under for the tournament, and set a mark which had the potential to make a leader falter under the pressure.

And so it was for Scott: He 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 putt for a 68.

Scott pulled his approach on 17 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.

Scott played a superb third to eight feet, but the par putt to force extra holes was pulled wide and that was that.

“It’s just crazy,” Els mused afterwards. “Crazy, crazy, crazy… it’s a crazy game. I really feel for my buddy Scotty. I’ve been there before. I’ve blown majors before. I just hope he doesn’t take it as hard as I did.”

But he pointed out that he felt from the start that the week was going to unearth something special. “I felt good,” he said. “After yesterday, I hadn’t played myself out of it. But still, to make up all those shots. But I just felt good.

“It’s hard to explain. I just felt some good was going to come out of this. Even if I didn’t win, I was going to feel good about this because, with all the work I’ve put in, my game’s back to where it should be. I feel I can compete – and if it wasn’t going to be this year, I feel I can compete next year.”

And it’s clear that the Els career that has already been burnished by admission to the Hall of Fame has found a new lease of life. In this day and age of more and more golfers showing themselves able to win majors, he may never win another, but the ability to hold on and win this one may say more about him than any of his other three major victories.

“I’ve still got to figure this out,” he said. “Obviously I’m so happy that I’ve won, but, I’ve been on the other side more times than I’ve been on the winning side.

“And that’s not a good feeling. I saw Adam in the scorer’s hut afterwards, and I told him I was sorry how things turned out and that he had to bounce back quickly. Don’t let this thing linger. I feel for him, but thankfully he’s young enough – he’s 32 and he’s got the next 10 years in which he can win more than I’ve won,” he added.

© 2016 Sunshine Tour. All rights reserved. Website constructed by OCS Sport