Adam Scott completed a historic collapse at the Open Championship on Sunday, bogeying his final four holes to relinquish the Claret Jug and his four-shot lead to Ernie Els.
I will admit, I did not watch Scott wilt away. I didn’t watch it because I did not see it coming.
Scott, who came into the day with a four-shot lead, bogeyed three of his first six holes Sunday. An epic collapse seemed possible at this point. To his credit, he pulled himself back together and parred the next seven at Royal Lytham while other golfers on the course struggled.
The important thing to note about Scott’s play was these were not up-and-down, scrambling pars. Scott had command of his game. His drives and iron play were brilliant, repeatedly giving himself chances within 20 feet for birdies and coming away with stress-free two putts. The short game was the only thing faltering for Scott, but it didn’t seem to matter. He was going to coast into the clubhouse and become an Open champion.
When he finally converted with a birdie on the 14th to stretch his lead back to four over a resurgent Els, I can honestly say I felt safe leaving the house (to go mini-golfing nonetheless, and I played quite well if anyone was wondering) and forgoing watching the tournament play out to its predictable ending.
I was certainly wrong.
Scott’s play coming down the stretch was inexplicable. If the stage was too big for him and he tightened up, he should have done that after his difficult start in the final round. He had overcome that already. He was playing smart and efficient, two characteristics that do not lead you to believe a player will “choke”. Also, Scott is not some young guy or flash-in-the-pan player who had never seen the big moment. Though not a major champion, the Australian is ranked 13th in the world and had already won on tour this year.
Maybe for once we should just avoid playing the psychological game and look at the facts. The course was tough on Sunday. The presence of Open-type winds caught players off guard and out of sorts. Only seven players in the top 30 of the scoreboard were under par in the final round. Also, Scott’s putter failed him all day, it just was not relevant because of how well he was playing until he reached the green. He missed countless putts all day. It was bound to catch up with him. When he finally hit a few poor shots, his short game was not capable of bailing him out. It happens to the best of players.
The same thing happened to Tiger Woods on Sunday as he plummeted down the stretch.
While what happened to Scott was unfortunate, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, including myself. Golf is the ultimate game of ups and downs and when they occur can determine who comes out on top. No one is invincible from the game’s struggles when they are not at their best (as Tiger has shown again and again), especially not on the biggest of stages.
On another note, congratulations to Ernie Els on winning his second Open Championship. Let’s not forget that part of the story.