The Big Easy Gets A Hard-Earned Major

LYTHAM ST ANNES, ENGLAND - JULY 22: New Open Champion Ernie Els of South Africa hugs with runner up Adam Scott of Australia after winning the 141st Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club on July 22, 2012 in Lytham St Annes, England. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

Ernie Els won the 141st British Open

Adam Scott collapsed and gave away the 141st British Open.

Both of these statements are factual. Whichever of these statements you give more credence to is your answer to the ultimate Golfer's Rorschach Test.

Els captured his fourth major championship by making up 6 shots on the final 9 holes, while Adam Scott saw his first major slip right through his fingers.

Perseverance. Humility.

Two qualities that golf demands from anyone who takes the game seriously, and both were on display Sunday at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

Humility

Scott certainly learned this lesson today after seeing a four shot lead evaporate over the final four holes. The 32-year old Australian is high on the dreaded list of "Best Golfer to Never Win a Major," and spent most of the day working to remove himself from that list.

I have admired Scott for a long time, admired his classic swing and his seemingly even keel manner on the course. But there is nothing more daunting for a professional golfer than sleeping on the lead at a Major on a Saturday night. Scott handled the pressure relatively well until he reached #15.

There is a classic quote from Bobby Jones about the biggest challenge of the game.

"Competitive golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course...the space between your ears."

Adam Scott kept his game under control on that course for 14 holes, but then his swing began "to leak a little oil" and it doesn't have to be a major fail to cost you a shot. How Scott recovers on that five-and-a-half-inch course over the next few months will be essential for him to not let this round mar the rest of his career.

Perseverance

As much as I admire Adam Scott, Ernie Els is one of my all-time favorites. Watch him swing and the reason for his nickname "The Big Easy" is readily apparent. As any golfer will tell you, once a round starts, you should only have one swing thought. Generally mine is about tempo, and I always picture Els swing to slow my tempo down.

But Els, at 42, was considered to be finished as a real contender at the Majors. It has been a decade since he last won at the British Open. This week was the perfect spot for Els to make a run. In the three British Open Championships that Ernie has played in at Royal Lytham & St. Annes he has shot par or lower on all 12 rounds. While Els spent most of the day drafting behind the leaders, he was fully aware of the importance of his birdie putt on 18 and he just drilled it. He persevered and captured his second Claret Jug.

Dan Jenkins sums up in 54 characters a big part of the problem with Tiger Woods. With all the tinkering and adjustment with his swing, Woods is battling that five-and-a-half-inch course. But it is more than him becoming human over the 5 to 10 foot putt. Certainly the intimidation factor has lessened. Players are no longer as nervous when they look over their shoulder to see where Woods is on the leaderboard. That’s in part because Woods has been slow exhibit his shark-like tendencies to attack at any sign of weakness in the field.

In the three Majors in the books for 2012, Wood's weekend performance is anything but stellar. His average score for the Thursday-Friday rounds at the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open is 70.

His weekend average for the six rounds in those events is 73. That's a huge swing and it is a strong indication that Tiger Woods is still not comfortable with his swing overhaul.

Back to the British Open and our Rorschach Test. Watching Adam Scott's lead slip away over those final four holes was truly painful. It was the Chinese Water Torture version of golf, as drip by drip Scott's confidence in his swing eroded away into nothingness.

Ernie Els, on the other hand, kept believing in his game plan, and kept repeating his sweet swing. Of the final 5 groups in Sunday's round, only Els shot under par. After shooting 2-over on the front nine, Els made the turn to the (supposedly) harder back nine and made four birdies. He put the pressure on Scott by making that birdie putt on 18 and posting a 7 under total on the big scoreboard.

Ernie Els won the 141st British Open

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