Move over Greg Norman, someone coming down the aisle needs a seat.
In fairness to Norman, he never came close to giving away a major championship the way Adam Scott hand-delivered the British Open to Ernie Els on Sunday. Norman had plenty of final round major heartbreaks, but only one (’96 Masters) was a collapse he authored. The rest were a result of improbable circumstances biting him at the worst time.
That a player of Scott’s caliber couldn’t make a par over the final hour on Sunday isn’t only shocking, it’s potentially career-slowing. I wouldn’t go as far as to call it career-threatening, because he’s already had a great run at age 32, but Sunday’s meltdown could take a while for Scott to digest.
A friend sent me a text right after Scott’s 12-foot par putt slid just left of the hole to give Els the Claret Jug and asked, “How will he ever recover from that?”
My reply: “He probably won’t.”
Lots of tournament golfers have horror stories like the one Scott authored on Sunday.
I can speak freely about it because I produced a late-round collapse in 2007 while trying to qualify for the U.S. Mid Amateur at the Country Club of Petersburg. Standing on the 16th tee, I was -2 for the day and knew from past experience that even par was likely to get in, with two qualifying spots available to the field of 80 players. For some reason, and who knows why on earth I would have EVER said this to myself, I thought…”the only thing I have to avoid are three bogeys and I’m going to Bandon Dunes (site of the national event).”
You know exactly what happened.
I made bogey at 16, missed a five-footer for par at 17 and was lucky to make a bogey at 18 when I somehow willed in a 20-footer to finish at +1 for the day.
I missed the national event by two shots. I have no idea why on earth I would have had a silly conversation with myself as I prepared for the final three holes. It was clearly the wrong thing to lodge in my brain…and I certainly learned from it, because since that day I’ve handled several late-round leads in tournaments or club events much better than I did that day in Virginia.
All I needed to do was par the last three holes and I was in. That’s always easier said than done, particularly in amateur golf where we’re all less experienced and skilled than guys like Ernie Els and Adam Scott.
Three straight pars and I’m in the U.S. Mid-Amateur championship.
But I couldn’t do it. And neither could Adam Scott on Sunday, although the stakes he was playing for were obviously much greater.
I don’t know what went through Scott’s mind on the 15th tee of the final round. I can’t imagine he said something to himself as stupid as, “OK you dummy, just don’t bogey these last four holes and you win the British Open.” I assume he just went about his business the way he had for the first 68 holes. Somehow, though, he gave it all away with four straight bogies.
I don’t know how you recover from it if “recovering from it” translates to winning a major title. Lots of guys have sniffed major championship and handed them to someone else in the final hour and never bounced back from their failings. Guys like Mike Reid, Scott Hoch, Mike Donald, Len Mattiace, John Cook, Jean Van de Velde and Colin Montgomerie all gave away glory on the final holes, either missing a key putt or hitting an errant shot at the worst time late in the round. None of those players ever recovered, although it’s fair to point out that Montgomerie’s final fling with a major at the ’06 U.S. Open came near the end of his competitive career.
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