Comeback king Ernie Els has always been a popular player with British crowds ever since the ‘Big Easy’ won his first British Open at Muirfield in 2002.
Now a decade later, he has earned himself a host of new fans becoming the 2012 British Open Champion after a dramatic last hour’s golf at Royal Lytham and St. Annes Golf Course on a warm Sunday afternoon.
Els’ climb to become the 2012 British Open Champion is all the more surprising given the events of a turbulent Sunday afternoon. After a relatively benign few days, the wind picked up at the seaside links for the later starters.
For once the course, that had been so benign in the first few days, played as tough as players had expected on their practice rounds, when howling winds and rain were the norm.
Overnight leader Adam Scott held a four shot lead at the start of proceedings and for the first three quarters of the round, with his main contenders falling by the wayside, Scott maintained that lead, although he’d dropped a couple of shots himself.
As his main challengers like Tiger Woods, Graeme McDowell, Zach Johnson and Brandt Snedeker all fell by the wayside, Scott’s calm, generally unflappable play saw him reach the 15th tee with a four shot lead over Els.
The languid South African had shot himself into second place this stage on his way to making a superb 68.
Yet few would have expected the dramatic events to follow: Scott bogeyed 15th and Els caught fire, birdying three holes down the stretch to finish at -7, including a memorable birdie on 18th, after which he joyously hurled his ball into the crowd.
Scott’s woes continued at 16 where he three putted on a green for the first time in the tournament and a wayward approach at 17 saw him find the rough off the green, to drop yet another shot and put himself level with Els on -7.
Needing a par to force a play off, the nerves got to the Aussie again as he found a bunker with his drive. With Els practising on the putting green in readiness for a playoff, Scott was forced to chip out sideways, but then hit a lovely approach to eight feet to give himself chance of par and forcing a play off.
His putt though rolled agonisingly wide, meaning that Els was crowned the new British Open Champion for the second time in his career and golf’s comeback king for 2012!
Scott, almost tearful and dumbstruck as to what happened, could scarcely believe that another major chance had slipped away in such a cruel and unexpected fashion.
The victory was only Ernie Els fourth tournament win since October 2004 and his first for over two years, when he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational and WGC CA Championship within two weeks of each other in March 2010.
The 42-year-old succeeds Darren Clarke as another venerable British Open Champion.
Ernie achieved his success at Royal Lytham and St. Anne’s with the following clubs in his bag:
Ernie Els In The Bag for the British Open 2012
Driver: Callaway RAZR Fit (8.5 degree loft)
Fairway Wood: Callaway X Your (15 degree)
Utility Clubs: Callaway X Utility (18, 21 and 24 degrees)
Irons: Callaway RAZR X Prototype (5 to PW)
Wedges: Callaway X Series Jaws (52 and 60 degree loft)
Putter: Odyssey White Hot XG#1 (Belly Putter)