Ernie Els spoke at the 18th green as he was being crowned the “Champion Golfer of the Year” by the Royal and Ancient minutes after winning the 2012 British Open Championship on Sunday at Royal Lytham.
“I had a great week here. Everybody offered me encouragement. Were you just being nice to me, or did you really think I could win?” Els observed.
Those words came after he paid tribute to his good friend Adam Scott, who had just made four straight bogeys to finish with 75 and lose to Els by one shot. Scott held a four-shot lead before his stretch of bogeys.
Sunday at the Open proved why professional golf might be the cruelest of all sports.
Scott was rolling. He appeared that he was going to win while everybody else around him, Els excluded, was shooting themselves in the foot. First, it was Brandt Snedecker making two straight double bogeys on the front nine. Next, it was Tiger Woods, who suffered a triple bogey on the sixth hole when he literally had to lie on the ground to hit a bunker shot. Finally, Graeme McDowell snapped hooked his tee shot into the gorse on the 11th hole making a critical double bogey and it looked as though Scott was home free.
It was stacking up as the ideal day for the likable Scott, who was trying to win his first major. When he birdied the 14th hole, Scott was four shots ahead of Els. But, he admittedly hit a bad shot on each of the four closing holes while Els was making pars until he sunk a 20-footer for birdie on the 18th hole.
In winning his second claret jug, Els became one of a few players to win majors in three different decades. Twice a U.S. Open champion, in 1994 and ’97, he has now won British Opens in 2002 and ’12. In the end, it was a duel between two of golf’s most likable players — Els and Scott.