Anybody who ever doubted that leading a Major Golf Tournament doesn’t play the kind of mind games with the world’s best which would make Hannibal Lecter cringe, was obviously blissfully unaware of the continuous beeping in their ears Sunday morning - which could have been either the sound of their alarm going off before Starbucks even opened or the sound of Stevie Williams’ ego backing up as his loop “Adam van de Scott” (citing source Andrew Cuff) folded like the proverbial cheap tent over Royal Lytham’s final 4 holes. Either way, a tall, unassuming South African, with a head of hair that Donald Trump would slap babies and vote Democrat for, who never led alone until Scott crumbled to his knees on the 18th, raised the fabled Claret Jug aloft for the 2nd time. In so doing, he joined such notables as Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as men who have captured The Open and the US Open twice in their careers, and ended a personal 10 year voyage of Major frustration which has seen him often in the fray but seldom able to overcome the cruelty of a balky Sunday putter.
The 32 on the back-9 was vintage Ernie… smooth, silky and with a demeanor more reminiscent of a man walking a well-trained Labrador than entering the snake-pit that can be a Major Sunday. While other seasoned contenders like Graeme McDowell and Tiger Woods were snap-hooking and Mickelson-channeling themselves out of contention respectively, The Big Easy refused to tow the party line and bunt irons off the tee, favouring instead the more traditional approach of Letting The Big Dog Eat. It paid off on 18. Perhaps his best drive of the week set-up the short approach and a birdie putt which thankfully hit the hole. He had posted (-7), but not even the most cynical observer envisioned what followed.
Standing on the 15th tee, Adam Scott was at (-10) and for all intents and purposes preparing no doubt to drink some rather cheap and cheerful Australian plonk from the same trophy which it is rumoured fellow countryman and former Champion Golfer Ian Baker-Finch once relieved himself in. To this point, he had followed all of the guidelines laid out in the USGA and R&A’s collaborative publication “How To Bore Friends And Win Our Majors” and had played some truly outstandingly drab, perfectly uninteresting golf. Even the bogey on #15 didn’t have the on-course cell phones buzzing with a sudden rash of phone calls to loved ones with talk of an impending collapse. But then, the critical error. On the reachable 335-yard par-4 16th, the Jean van de Velde instructional manual clearly states that Driver is required off the tee, especially when leading by 3 shots at this juncture! Sure… Seve’s temporary car-park is now a corporate hospitality tent hawking Heinekens and Old Tom Morris wristwatches but c’mon Adam, grip it and rip it. Instead, Scott chose to hit iron into the fairway bunker and the ensuing bogey along with the roars generated by Els’ heroics at the last, may very well have set the tone for his misadventures at #17 and #18.
It was hard to watch. The golfing world loves Ernie Els and except for the Aussie’s choice of the suddenly silent, talking golf cart that is Stevie Williams, the golfing world also likes Adam Scott. For 68 holes it appeared as though all the hype, the promise and the talent that has surrounded Scott since his emergence would be swept casually away by a long wand, Fantasia-style and he would be another to shed the moniker of “Best Player To Never Win A Major.” And then the demons came… those demons which so often seem to wander the Major Championship venues… the demons that still make Thomas Bjorn throw sand at Ben Curtis whenever he sees him and still cause Jean van de Velde to take off his shoes and stomp the grapes barefoot at his winery. So often, Els has stood on the putting green, patiently awaiting the Golf Gods, knowing he has given his all only to find himself a witness to another’s coronation – most notable was his final round 67 at the 2004 Masters which ended in disappointment as Mickelson proved to the whole world that the Woody Harrelson/Wesley Snipes adage still holds true… and no… I’m not talking about “Money Train.”
It was a strangely bitter-sweet victory for Els. In true Big Easy style, his first thoughts were for his close friend who had allowed the pressures of The Open Championship to wrench the Claret Jug from his grasp. It showed the kind of Class that those NFL and NBA players who aren’t passed out in the front seats of their Escalades with a Glock on the passenger seat would do well to take notice of. It showed the kind of Class that we saw from the leaders of the Tour De France this year on the infamous Puncture Day but without all the PEDs and HGH. It showed the kind of Class matched only by Adam Scott who has braved the media circus with an elegance and grace worthy of a man who already as a Major trophy or two in the cabinet at home to stare at when the going gets rough. I’m with Ernie on this one… it’s only a matter of time until Scott closes the deal… but then again I keep saying that about Lee Westwood and I’ve already given up saying it about Sergio.
On that note… until next time Kelowna… Stay Classy.