Nice Guys Win and Lose at Royal Lytham

A HEART-BREAKING, BOGEY-TRAIN FINISH that brought back painful memories of Greg Norman could not have happened to a nicer guy. And a comeback win that included an improbable clutch birdie on the 72nd hole also could not have happened to a nicer guy.

Nice Guys Win and Lose at Royal Lytham 1
Ernie Els

At the 141st Open Championship contested at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, the nice guy both won and lost. When it was all over, winner Ernie Els, in true nice-guy fashion, threw his arm around loser Adam Scott, who had led or co-led the Open most of the way until his final putt missed left.

Scott had the Claret Jug in his grasp. On a breezy day in northwest England that played havoc with his challengers, the Australian in search of his first major victory had played steady enough golf to hold a four-shot lead with four holes to play.

Then there was a one-man, four-hole pileup that happened in slow motion. Playing partner Graeme McDowell tried to look away but couldn’t.

“I managed to hit a poor shot on each of the closing four holes,” Scott said. “I know I let a really great chance slip through my hands today.”

There were a few errant shots, yes, but the four missed par putts—each of them makeable—meant that Adam Scott’s name would not be engraved on the Claret Jug, at least not for the year 2012. The putter failed him, or he failed the putter, and it lost him the Open.

In the end, Els, a reluctant convert to the belly putter, sank the putt that mattered on the final green. His body language seemed to say “finally” after the 15-foot birdie putt dropped into the cup for a 2-under 68, the best round by a mile among the leaders.

As he waited for Scott to finish, “The Big Easy” expected to be disappointed, coming achingly close once again during a majors drought that had lasted a decade. Instead, it turned out to be the South African’s day after another talented Aussie couldn’t finish it off.

“I’m still numb,” Els said. “It still hasn’t set in.”

Adam Scott could have said the same thing. That numbing finish couldn’t have happened to two nicer guys.

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Neil Sagebiel

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