Wow. Or ugh. Or hooray! What a mix of emotions after watching that final round.
After a crazy start to Sunday's round with players hitting the ball all over the course, commentators forgetting the rules of golf, and balls moving when previously at rest around the greens, things really settled down for the better part of three hours. After a birdie on No. 14, Adam Scott looked like he was going to cruise into the clubhouse as The Open champion. But the drama all happened late. After missing a short birdie on No. 16, Ernie Els rammed home a 12-footer on No. 18 to get into the clubhouse at -7 -- still a stroke back from Scott. The wheels then completely fell off for the Aussie Scott, who bogeyed his final four holes. Els is your champion golfer.
It was a tough one to process. Both Scott and Els are genuinely respected by their peers and Scott was in such control of his game for 68 holes that the finish was just depressing. But Els is a player so many root for and like we discussed this week, Lytham has a history of identifying the world's best players. The Big Easy certainly fits into that category and Scott, obviously, still has some things to prove.
Let's talk through what we can take away from this week at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.
Els was a worthy champion. He didn't have an over-par round on the week, the only player to accomplish that. There were only nine players who broke par on Sunday, and his 68 was lowest round of the afternoon wave. Like Scott, he had a poor stretch during the tournament -- on Friday, when he was +3 during a six-hole stretch. He had time to recover and finished his last eight holes that day -2, and play his next two rounds in matching 68's. Timing is everything. It's not like he's been playing poorly this year, either -- four top-10's, lost in a playoff in New Orleans, and solo ninth at the US Open. It's probably safe to say he should be on the consideration list at any event, and since the PGA at Kiawah should play more like a British Open than Lytham did, this two-time champ is a favorite.
Adam Scott, if he had't before, has taken his place among the game's elite. There are roughly 10 guys on this list and he's certainly one of them. He's not battling Father Time or worried about distance like a Jim Furyk, so I think he'll bounce back rather quickly from this major misstep. He's taken a different approach to his golf this year -- fewer events, different preparation -- so he should look at this as a positive that his plan is working. He's not a one-hit wonder -- his game travels well. Expect him to be back in the mix in Akron for the WGC and at Kiawah.
Other than Ernie Els, the biggest beneficiary of Scott's collapse might be Brandt Snedeker. Sneds is very tough on himself and emotional, as we saw at The Masters in 2008. He was going to have a tough time with this one until he saw how Scott's game fell apart, especially since Scott smoked him in their group on Saturday. He still might have a hard time getting over it -- after all, if he'd played the final 35 holes in +3, he would've come to No. 18 on Sunday needing a par to win -- but I think Scott's finish will relieve some of that self-induced pressure. Now that he's healthy, he's back to a legit fantasy option each week he's in the field.
Tiger Woods. So much to take away here: bad distance control with his wedges (recurring theme), no trust in the driver (recurring theme), faded on the weekend (recurring theme). On the positive side: he hung in better this weekend than he did in The Masters and US Open, his putting was better, and he finished T3. Ultimately, I question the strategy of laying so far back off the tee -- I guess that speaks to his lack of trust in his 3-wood and driver. It's a process (said in my Eldrick voice). Tiger will be a favorite at Kiawah.
The Tour heads to Hamilton G&CC in Ontario next week for the Canadian Open, where Sean O'Hair is the defending champ… although last year the event was played at Shaunessey CC in Vancouver. Glad they wised up and moved it a littler closer to the UK for 2012.
- Disappointing weeks for Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Phil Mickelson, Ben Curtis and several others. Each of the named were considered contenders, some were predicted to be champions (ahem, me, umm, hello Sergio, thanks for nothing), and only McIlroy and Westwood made the cut. Rose was probably at the top of the list since he's been around the lead in just about every tourney he's entered in 2012.
- A nice rally this weekend by Dustin Johnson. He now has back-to-back top-10 finishes in The Open, something I'll definitely have in mind next year.
- Although Luke Donald was never really in contention, his T5 finish was his third top-11 Open finish the last four years. This is why he'll never be too far away from the top spot in the World Golf Ranking -- he gets top-10's in the events that offer a lot of points. Still, I'd like to see him win a major someday if he's really going to lay a legitimate claim to that No. 1 ranking. (By the way, Tiger is now No. 2 in the OWGR.)
- Keep an eye on Nicolas Colsaerts. I've tipped him before and if I could buy stock in him, I would. He's going to be the next big thing on the world stage, and I'll stick him in my lineup whenever he sets foot in the States. At Kiawah -- I believe he's officially qualified, but will have to check -- he should be in the mix since it'll play a lot more like a British Open course than, say, Royal Lytham did this week. His pair of 65's at Lytham were unmatched (Zach Johnson had 65-66), but it was his second-round 77 that prevented him for being there at the end on Sunday.
- Another top-10 for Matt Kuchar. Solid as they come.
- Louis Oosthuizen should've finished higher, but +3 on the final two holes took him from T5 to T19. Still, a solid finish and a player who continues to get his nose in the mix.
- A nice T9 result for Geoff Ogilvy, who has battled injury but has shown some flashes the last two months. I'd say he'd be a great pick for next week's Canadian Open, where he finished T4 last year, but he's not in the field.
- At post time, Scott Stallings was leading the True South Classic by two shots through 12 holes on Sunday. It would be Stallings' second Tour win in a little over a year if he can hang on.
Check back for results of our Pick 6 game, which should be updated by Sunday evening. And while you're here, sign up for our PGA Championship Pick 6 game.
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Photo: US Presswire