ERNIE ELS, CHAMPION golfer of the year, as they call the winner of The Open.
At 46, some might have argued that a fourth Major was beyond reach, but the way he has recommitted himself to the game having somewhat drifted out of the spotlight is testament to his talent and an Open Championship is a fine reward.
We have to remember that earlier this year, the same Ernie Els missed out on a spot at the US Masters, such was the extent to which he had fallen down the rankings. It has been a relatively short turn around, but maybe it took missing out on a special tournament like that for him to summon the necessary motivation and dedication to turn things around.
His putting has obviously been an issue in recent years, but the belly putter has managed to help him with that aspect of his game. We now have a situation in the game where those using putters of extended length are winning more and more. Keegan Bradley at the USPGA last year, Webb Simpson at the US Open last month, for example.
Pádraig Harrington has certainly been outspoken on the issue. But that is a debate that will rage far beyond the aftermath of this Championship.
The man who missed out on lifting the claret jug is, funnily enough, also an exponent of the long putter, Adam Scott. And boy did that club let him down over the final four holes. The three-footer he miss on the 16th green was a bad mistake, but it didn’t cause irreperable damage. At that point I was following Adam Scott on the course, and having missed the putt on 16, he crushed a drive down the middle on 17. At that point, all was fine, he still had a two-shot lead.
But just as he arrived at his ball on the 17th fairway a giant roar went up from the 18th green. It was clear what had happened. Els has made the birdie putt. And suddenly the dynamics of the situation totally changed. Until that point, Scott had enjoyed a comfortable margin, but now he was facing the prospect of needing two pars to win having just come off back-to-back bogeys.
As a friend said to me as Scott stepped up hit his second into 17, “all he needs is three good swings.”
Unfortunately, two of those three went wrong. He had probably made 100 good swings in the tournament up until that point, but he couldn’t find them when he really needed them. It was tough to watch. Being at the event really personalises the viewing experience a lot more. You’re reminded that these are humans after all.
Sure, they are trained professionals, but there is no way of training yourself out of the sinking feeling that must have come over him when he drove into the bunker on 18, so the dejection as he watched his par putt slide past the left of the cup.
The real challenge for Scott now is how he bounces back from this. He now has two runner-up finishes in a Major in two years, the other being at the Masters last year. He obviously has the game, but he needs to avoid getting into a bad mental place.
If he can put together a good performance in one of his next outings, he might be able to put Sunday behind him pretty quickly. He must surely look at the example of Rory McIlroy who followed his demise at the Masters with a win at the following US Open.
The USPGA is only a few weeks away, and in the meantime he will defend his title at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational. The opportunity is there for him to bounce back with a bang.