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Sometimes, words aren't even necessary. Adam Scott stood alone on the 18th green at Royal Lytham & St. Anne's, shaking his head ever so slightly in disbelief.
He had just pulled his 7-foot putt on 18 oh so slightly left, a putt that would have forced a playoff with Ernie Els, a putt that would have halted a painful run of bogeys to close what appeared to be a coronation for Adam Scott.
Instead, we're left with this: Leading by four strokes with four holes to go, Scott went bogey-bogey-bogey-bogey to complete one of the most painful collapses in golf history.
"I had it in my hands with four to go," Scott said afterward. "I'm very disappointed. I played so beautifully for most of the week."
He did. And Els played well enough to hang in there, holing one astonishing, 15-foot putt on 18 to close within one of Scott with two holes remaining. That proved to be too much for Scott to bear, as he put his approach on 17 into the rough and his drive on 18 into a fairway bunker. As it turned out, his approach on 18 would be the last of the miracles available to Scott; the long putter that had served him so well turned south at the very worst possible time.
Indeed, the entire scene was a confusing one. Els is one of the most beloved figures in golf, and the idea that he could win another major is one that golf fans around the country would have reveled in without necessarily knowing the circumstances. But the circumstances are easily the most painful we've seen since 2009 when Tom Watson failed to win the British Open. Though Scott was smiling afterward, the raw pain of such a heartbreaking loss deeply touched Els.
"I'm numb," Els said. "Later on it'll settle in that I won this golf tournament, but right now I feel bad for my buddy."
Will Scott recover from this? History isn't kind. Jean van de Velde has only played in seven majors since his infamous 1999 British Open collapse, missing the cut in most. Scott's countryman Greg Norman did manage five top 10s in majors after his 1996 Augusta collapse, including two in the very next two majors, but was unable to ever win another major. Arnold Palmer surrendered a seven-shot lead in the 1966 U.S. Open and would never win another major. On the other hand, Rory McIlroy won the 2011 U.S. Open just months after his dramatic Augusta collapse.
But those are matters for another day. For now, we're left with this: Although this joins one of the most ignominious lists in golf history, that of major-championship collapses, Scott held his head high, a class act right until the end. Maybe he'll win a few of these, and maybe he won't, but he's shown golf how to lose with dignity.
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