Rubenstein: Can’t remember such a painful ending
Published on Friday, May. 24, 2013 09:43PM EDT Last updated on Sunday, Jul. 22, 2012 02:46PM EDT
Brutal. I am sitting at home in Toronto having just watched the last round of the Open Championship. I have written golf for some 35 years and can’t remember such a painful ending to a major, as Adam Scott bogied the last four holes to lose by a shot to Ernie Els. I’m thrilled for Els, who shot four-under-par 32 the last nine holes and 68 for the round, and sad for Scott, who bogied the last four holes. Each is a gentleman on and off the course.
Yes, I know about how Jean Van de Velde gave up a three-shot lead with one hole to play in the 1999 Open at Carnoustie in Scotland. I was there. I followed Greg Norman all the way in the final round of the 1996 Masters when he shot 78 against Nick Faldo’s 67 and lost the six-shot lead he took into Sunday; Faldo, of course, won.
It was shocking to see what happened to Norman and to Van de Velde. And in each case, the eventual champions Faldo and Paul Lawrie were deserving of their wins. So, without any doubt, was Ernie Els. He won his fourth major during a year of recovery from feeling his game was all but gone. Els shot four-under 32 against the wind on the treacherous back nine at Royal Lytham & St. Annes while Scott made mistakes on the last four holes, which led to the bogies that generated his demise.
Els made hardly a putt all week, or so it seemed. But he made a gigantic putt on the final hole. He had to make a12’ birdie putt to have any chance of getting into a playoff, or so he must have thought. He poured the putt in and then Scott missed the 17th green into the hay left of the green, bogied that hole. Scott then drove into a bunker on the 18th, had to play out sideways, and then hit a terrific third about 10’ short of the hole. He needed to make the putt to get into a playoff, but missed to the left.
And that was that. Brutal, as I say. Shocking. Stunning. Scott was trying to win the first major of his career. What transpired demonstrated how difficult it can be to do that, especially for a golfer who has long been considered one of the best in the game–and one of its underachievers.
Els was around the practice green as Scott finished. He was on his phone. He was hitting some putts. He was eating a sandwich. As Tiger Woods said after shooting 73 the last round to tie for third with Brandt Snedeker, it was no surprise that Els won a golf tournament, but what was surprising was how he won.
Meanwhile, Els was full of compassion for Scott. He showed that during an interview with ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi moments after Scott missed his par putt on the final green in front of Royal Lytham’s stately clubhouse, and in front of the golf world–fully exposed for all to see.
“I feel for him,” Els said. “I’m numb. Later on it will settle in that I won. Right now I feel for my buddy….I feel very fortunate, but I really feel very bad for Adam.”
Els is some classy fellow, and now he has won two Open Championships–his first was in 2002. He also won the 1994 and 1997 U.S. Opens. He won this Open with phenomenal golf when it mattered, while Scott lost this Open via an utter collapse when it mattered.
It would take a very hard heart indeed not to hope Scott will learn from this and go on to win his first major. We will learn if Scott, 32, becomes strong at the broken places, at what he called his “sloppy finish,” or whether the way he finished this Open breaks him as a golfer. I find that hard to believe, but you never know.
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Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada’s Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round’s on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein