With four holes to play in the 141st Open Championship, Adam Scott seemed a lock to become the 10th consecutive first-time major winner. After he missed an 8-foot par bid at the 72nd hole, however, Ernie Els had won a second Claret Jug.
Scott (75) made four consecutive bogeys to finish the championship, turning a four-shot lead into a one-stroke loss to the South African.
Els made four birdies on the final nine holes, including a 15-footer on the last hole, to post a 7-under winning total. His closing 68 was the only under-par score on Sunday from the final 10 groups, giving him a fourth major title and first since the 2002 Open Championship.
Tiger Woods (73) and Brandt Snedeker (74), playing together in the penultimate group, both finished in a tie for third at 3 under par.
World No. 1 Luke Donald closed with 68 to finish in a tie for fifth place with Graeme McDowell, who equaled his playing partner Scott with 75 on Sunday.
Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts shot a Sunday-best 65 to jump into a tie for seventh at 1 under with Thomas Aiken.