Jean Van de Velde may have just been relieved of the dubious distinction of having the worst meltdown in recent major championship history. He can thank Adam Scott for taking that title away from him. And Ernie Els can thank Scott for handing him the 2012 British Open title and getting his name on the Claret Jug for the second time.
As Adam Scott played the final 4 holes on Sunday (ultimately going 4 over on that stretch), I kept thinking to myself “This can’t be happening. He’s not going to collapse. He’ll end up pulling it out.” Then, as Scott stood over his mid-range putt on the 18th green, needing to sink it to force a playoff with “The Big Easy”, I had a sinking feeling that Scott was destined to miss the putt. Suddenly, the iconic image of Van de Velde traipsing through the water on the 18th hole at Carnoustie with his pants rolled up above his knees came to mind. Watching the ball come off the blade of the putter, it looked like it had a chance. Unfortunately for Scott, he pulled it and missed left.
Whether it was nerves or simply a string of bad shots at the most inopportune time imaginable, Scott’s final 4 holes of the 141st British Open were in stark contrast to his first 68. He couldn’t find a groove to save his life. He missed a 3 foot par putt on the difficult par-4 16th hole. He played to the wrong side of greens and ended up in some of the 205 pot bunkers positioned ever-so-cruelly around the course.
Meanwhile, Els fired a 4-under par 32 on the back 9 to get himself to 7 under and move into contention after birdying the 72nd hole. Even then, Els didn’t think he had much of a chance, but as the camera started panning back to him during Scott’s collapse, you could see Els was allowing himself to become more optimistic as time went on. Surely he couldn’t think that he was going to win the title outright, but Els started prepping himself for a playoff…that ultimately wasn’t necessary.
Watching a collapse of this magnitude is difficult. You want to change the channel, but at the same time you want to keep watching to see whether or not the player is going to turn things around. Unfortunately for Scott, this time he couldn’t get back on track. You also have to congratulate Ernie Els for doing just enough to put himself in position to take home the championship.