British Open 2012 Results: 10 Biggest Surprises of the Tournament

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIJuly 23, 2012

British Open 2012 Results: 10 Biggest Surprises of the Tournament

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    The 2012 British Open seemed like one big surprise.

    It looked as though Adam Scott was finally about to have a huge breakthrough as one of the game's premier talents. Ernie Els had other plans, despite being good friends with the Aussie.

    Els captured the Claret Jug at Royal Lytham thanks to phenomenal ball striking in the final round, and a stellar 15-foot putt on the last hole to win by one stroke.

    While what happened between those two players alone is shocking enough, it's worth breaking down more specifically. It's also worth noting the other exciting storylines that got lost in Sunday's chaos.

    Here are the 10 biggest surprises of the 2012 Open Championship.

Scoring Conditions

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    54-hole leader Adam Scott undoubtedly faced more pressure in Sunday's final round, but he and others also faced drastically different conditions from the first three days.

    Even though it seemed like Royal Lytham was yielding a lot of birdies all week long, only eight players finished below par for the championship.

    The winds were still mild in the morning. This allowed many players who were well out of the tournament to sneak into the Top 10 by the end of the day.

    A gaggle of big names wound up even par for the tournament thanks to big final days, while those in contention struggled.

    Eventual champion Ernie Els was the only one in the afternoon to break par on the day besides world No. 1 Luke Donald, who finished tied for fifth but never threatened.

Nicolas Colsaerts

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    After crumbling down the stretch at the U.S. Open last month and not being very well-known before that, who knew Colsaerts would have a great showing at the very next major?

    The tie for seventh result the Belgian managed shows that his long hitting is backed up by a solid all-around game.

    Questions about his talent should also be permanently laid to rest, as he shot 65 in the first and final rounds of the tournament.

    Unfortunately for Colsaerts, the other two rounds were 77 and 72.

    His sensational final round was incredibly shocking, and it vaulted him up into the Top 10 by the end of the day.

    Out of seemingly nowhere, Colsaerts has been fairly relevant in the past two majors.

    He just may have a coming out party in the near future at one of golf's biggest tournaments and become the game's next superstar.

Rory McIlroy's Disappearance

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    Once again, McIlroy struggled mightily in a major championship, and lost his No. 2 ranking to some guy named Tiger as a result.

    The 23-year-old was in prime position after an opening three under-par round of 67, but failed to break par the next three days.

    It's still so early in his career, but it's clear that McIlroy has an incredible amount of talent. Lately, the majors just haven't been kind to him.

    Even though an improved frame of mind from last year's event seemed to help him the first day, McIlroy couldn't generate any momentum thereafter.

    A tie for 60th result wasn't much better than missing the cut at the U.S. Open last month for McIlroy.

    An odd, up and down 2012 season continues for golf's brightest talent and youngest superstar.

    One last shot at redemption awaits in Kiawah Island at the PGA Championship.

Luke Donald

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    No one can say the world's top-ranked player folded like a cheap suit this time around.

    Donald matched the best Open result of his career, and had one of the finest rounds of the afternoon on Sunday with a one-under 69.

    Even though he was never in contention, Donald kept plugging away. He was rewarded as he finished tied for fifth with Graeme McDowell, who played in the final pairing.

    The Open Championship was by far Donald's most encouraging result at this year's majors. He hit 75 percent of greens in regulation and over 80 percent of fairways.

    The usually trusty putter, which is what often separates Donald from the rest of the field, let him down a little bit.

    Had he been his typical self on the greens, Donald very well could have gotten his hands on the Claret Jug.

    Based on the intense criticism he has faced for his lack of success at majors, Donald responded to the pressure this week.

Tiger Woods and the Triple Bogey

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    Tiger was moving right along with five straight pars to start his round—until No. 6.

    Suddenly, his chances evaporated, as he plugged his second shot into the par-4 into the greenside bunker.

    With a semi-plugged lie, Tiger took a violent swing, but the ball didn't leave the sand and nearly hit him.

    The next shot from the seat of his pants was spectacular, but left him 50 feet from the cup. He three-putted for a devastating seven.

    Although he still lurked until a run of four consecutive bogeys did him in, Tiger's big number ultimately cost him a shot at his 15th major.

    It's well-known that Tiger hasn't come from behind in the final round to win a major before, but this seemed like a golden opportunity.

    Tiger may be "back," but apparently that doesn't apply to major championships on the weekends...

    (Cliche cliffhanger caveat...)

    ...Yet.

Graeme McDowell

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    McDowell's surprise was multifaceted.

    After a poor 2011 season, who would have thought McDowell would have played in the final group in the past two majors?

    That accomplishment alone is impressive enough, but it has to be disappointing to McDowell that he hasn't emerged victorious in either situation.

    As surprising as it has been to see him in the final group for two majors in a row, it was even more surprising to see how poorly McDowell played on Sunday.

    He applied modest pressure to Adam Scott, his playing partner who was gunning for his first major.

    However, the Northern Irishman had perhaps the most shocking shot of the tournament. He felt a sense of urgency to press Scott on the par-5 11th. 

    Even though he was almost 300 yards away from the green after his drive, McDowell wanted to knock it up near the green as Scott had an easy third shot from the fairway.

    McDowell nearly cold-topped his fairway wood and never found the ball.

    Incredibly, he salvaged a bogey on the hole, but McDowell didn't muster any sort of rally thereafter. He carded a five over-par round of 75 to finish tied for fifth.

Brandt Snedeker

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    The wonderful swing and silky putting stroke of Snedeker has unfortunately been missing in action too often since he joined the PGA Tour in 2004.

    His story at the British Open was so surprising, because he had a nagging rib injury that forced him to withdraw from the U.S. Open. He also withdrew from the Memorial Tournament.

    Bogey-free through 36 holes, Snedeker endured a difficult weekend where he didn't prosper so much. Two double bogeys on No. 7 and 8 cost him dearly on the final day.

    Still, Snedeker moves back inside the top 25 of the world rankings with a tie for third at Royal Lytham, and appears to finally be healthy.

    The strong showing also vaulted Snedeker up to 11th in the Team USA Ryder Cup standings.

    As long as he maintains the form he showed this week, Snedeker should make his debut at the event this year.

    He could be valuable, as he had a strong showing at the European Tour's Volvo World Match Play Championship back in May.

Jason Dufner

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    The newest American golfer to burst onto the scene, Dufner seemed destined for another stellar showing at one of golf's biggest tournaments after a bogey-free 66 in the second round.

    Then, it all went wrong on the weekend.

    Dufner led the field with six double bogeys, which is uncharacteristic for a player who has made few mistakes during his meteoric rise in the world of golf.

    It's not as though Dufner was hitting it or putting it poorly, but there were a few holes here and there that really cost him a shot at contending.

    A seven over-par showing on the weekend is not what Dufner had in mind, but he's shown he can bounce back from much bigger disappointments. This was also his first tournament since the U.S. Open.

    There are plenty of positives to draw on for the 35-year-old. It almost seems inevitable that he'll have a major victory on his resume at some point.

Ernie Els

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    Drive for show, putt for...

    Wait. ESPN's Paul Azinger noted in the broadcast on Sunday that Els was ranked in the bottom 10 in the field in putting. How could he possibly have won?

    Typically, to win a major championship, one has to roll the rock. Els was a huge exception to that rule of thumb.

    While he got plenty of help from Adam Scott to win his second Open, Els put on an unbelievable display of ball-striking all week.

    He hit 57 of 72 greens, which equates to nearly 80 percent. That would be an average of more than 14 out of 18 per round.

    How easy would the game be for all of us if we could hit it that good on a goat ranch course?

    Els struck it that well against all odds, in a major championship, and completed a wonderful comeback story at the age of 42. He was the only player in the field to shoot par or better all four days.

    After his round on Saturday, and again before he teed it up on Sunday, Els said he felt something special could happen. He had put in a lot of work over the past year, and especially the past couple of months.

    This historic hunch turned out to be prophetic in one of the wildest Open finishes in recent memory.

Adam Scott

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    As heartbreaking as Scott's display was on Sunday, he handled himself with such grace and class that it's hard not to root for the guy.

    I know his putter is whacky, but to bogey the final four holes and lose the British Open by one shot is absolutely gut-wrenching.

    This is especially so for Scott, who has been ranked as high as No. 3 in the world and has one of the best swings ever. Somehow, it hasn't translated to success in majors.

    With that said, Scott still fielded questions politely after the round. At least externally, he focused on the positives, noting how beautifully he played for most of the week.

    Such a fresh perspective and a positive outlook after something so devastating can't be appreciated enough, especially in golf.

    Open champion Ernie Els had some wonderful words for Scott at the trophy ceremony, as was documented by James Corrigan of The Telegraph:

    “First of all, I feel for my buddy Adam,” said Els when he picking up the trophy on the 18th green, with Scott at his side. “You’re a great friend of [mine] and you’re going to win many of these. You have too much talent.”

    Here's to hoping the 32-year-old Scott bounces back from such a massive collapse. He has plenty of golf left, and having Stevie Williams on the bag can't hurt.