One might say Ernie Els waxed "prophetic" after the third round of the 2012 Open Championship.
During his post-round presser Saturday at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, Els said he believed something special could occur this week. He said he felt something good was bound to happen.
As it turns out, he was absolutely correct.
Els came from six shots back with a closing round of 68 on Sunday—including a pivotal birdie on the 72nd hole of the tournament—to win his fourth major championship. He now owns major victories in three different decades, his last major win coming 10 years ago at the Open Championship at Muirfield.
At this 141st British Open, Els defeated Australian Adam Scott by just one shot. Scott squandered a four-shot, 54-hole advantage by making bogeys on each of the final four holes in what turned out to be a devastating loss.
"Amazing," Els said in his post-tournament victory presser. "I'm still numb. It still hasn't set in. It will probably take quite a few days because I haven't been in this position for 10 years, obviously, so it's just crazy, crazy, crazy getting here."
For Els, a World Golf Hall of Famer at just 42 years old, it had to feel like sweet redemption. He couldn't muster the necessary playing credentials to get into the Masters Tournament back in April—the first time in two decades—and wasn't offered a special invite. Not that he would've accepted, mind you. But as far as I was concerned, a major without Els didn't feel right. He kept working hard on his game, though, and the result was his second hoisting of the Claret Jug.
"The Big Easy" played wonderfully all week with rounds of 67, 70, 68 and 68.
Statistically, he made the shots he needed to, when he needed them the most, including the clutch birdie on No. 18 Sunday. He hit a monster tee shot to the middle of the fairway at the final hole, and then knocked his approach to roughly 15 feet for the birdie opportunity that turned out to be his most important shot of the tournament.
Els was a model of consistency with his iron play all week, hitting almost 80 percent of his greens in regulation—well above the average from the rest of the field—while finding 62.5 percent of his fairways. Els averaged almost 300 yards off the tee for the week.
And while his putter had let him down in previous events this year, he birdied four holes without a bogey on the back nine Sunday after making the turn at two over par for the day. For the tournament, Els made 16 birdies, 47 pars and just nine bogeys. He didn't have any score worse than a bogey during the entire championship.
With Els' victory, it became the third consecutive year a South African has won a major. Louis Oosthuizen won this Open Championship in 2010 and Charl Schwartzel won the Masters in 2011.
Yesterday, I wrote that it would be something of a miracle if Els could come from behind to win this tournament. But I added that miracles happen everyday. And coming off a top-10 finish at the U.S. Open last month, Els used momentum, experience and outstanding play to achieve something truly incredible.
The final result reads: Ernie Els, Champion Golfer of the Year.
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