Ernie Els has endured his share of disappointing finishes at majors in his PGA career. For that reason, it seems appropriate that fortune finally favored him while contesting a major.
Els remained steady as other golfers around him on the leaderboard faltered down the stretch in the final round of the 2012 British Open. It played into his favor as Els benefited from an epic collapse by 54 hole leader Adam Scott to claim his second career Open Championship on Sunday. It is his first major victory since winning the 2002 British Open. Els also became just the sixth golfer to win two U.S. Opens and two British Opens in his career.
There is no way Els could have imagined when he went to the clubhouse after shooting 2-under 68 in the final round that he had positioned himself to win. Scott seemed to have wrapped up a victory when he sank a birdie on the 14th hole to move four strokes ahead of the field at 10-under. Starting on the 15th hole, everything changed.
Scott fell apart when a poor drive led to a bogey at 15. He missed a three-foot putt for par at 16. Another bogey followed at 17. Scott was tied with Els when he teed off on the 18th hole. He drove into the bunker and missed an eight-foot par putt to seal his collapse. With four bogeys in four holes, Scott suffered a final round collapse that will rank among the more notable final day collapses in a major tournament.
Els, on the other hand, was flawless on the back nine. He started six strokes behind Scott at the turn. When he finished off the day with a 15 foot birdie putt on the 18th hole, Els looked to have simply wrapped up second place. Then Scott completed his collapse and Els emerged as the unlikely winner.
While Scott is receiving plenty of attention for four straight bogeys on the final four holes, Els did not simply back into a British Open title by chance. He positioned himself to take advantage of Scott's stumble down the stretch. Els shot 4-under on the back nine and finished the tournament at 7-under to edge Scott by a stroke.
Els can take satisfaction in seizing the moment when it came. Many other notable golfers - including Tiger Woods - mirrored Scott's final round collapse. Els went the opposite direction. He handled the final round a veteran who has been in this situation countless times before and earned the greatest reward for his consistency.
The right to claim the Claret Jug once again.
John Coon enjoys getting in a round from time to time in the Salt Lake City area when he is not covering golf as a freelance sports reporter.
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