As his par putt slipped by at the 72nd hole, handing the Open Championship to Ernie Els, Adam Scott nearly dropped to his knees. He turned away from the hole after the ball slid past on the low slide, ensuring his fourth bogey in the final four holes. Scott closed his eyes. This had to be a nightmare.
The Australian tapped in for a final, soul-crushing bogey, a round of 5-over 75 and a lot of questions about what happened in the final hour at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.
It won’t entirely sink in for a while, which is perhaps why Scott held up with class and grace in the face of a stunning collapse.
“I had it in my hands with four to go,” Scott said. “I’m very disappointed. I played so beautifully for most of the week.”
With four holes to play and a four-shot lead, it seemed Scott could stroll to his first major title. The lead slid away slowly, making it all the more painful to watch. A careless three-putt for bogey. A dead pull into high grass with his approach to the 17th. A tee shot that found one of the 17 bunkers in the sea of sand at Lytham’s finishing hole, leaving him no choice but to play out sideways. Everything that went so right for four days had gone wrong – at the wrong time.
Scott had one last chance to salvage his chance at the Claret Jug, needing that 8-footer for par to force a three-hole playoff with Els. The long putter, which is still to win a major championship, let him down.
The 32-year-old was supposed to usher himself into the prime of his golfing life with a major breakthrough, one that would surely be the onset of others. Instead, a self-inflicted wound to the heart may stymie any future major success.
Since 1960, only two players have failed to win the Open Championship when carrying a four-shot lead into the final round. Adam Scott is one. Jean van de Velde is the other.
Van de Velde has never been the same. Then again, the Frenchman was aiming for his one moment in the sun. Scott was expected, but may not be now, to do so much more.
If there’s solace to be taken from this fall, it’s that it has been overcome in recent memory. Rory McIlroy was supposed to have been crowned the name’s next great at the 2011 Masters. Then the 10th hole happened – a singular event to change his fate. The universe paid McIlroy back two months later, however, with a record-setting win at the U.S. Open.
Kiawah Island awaits for Scott. Tonight, Scott must feel on an island all alone.