The British Open at Royal Lytham and St. Annes featured one of the most exciting finishes this year, and a close look at the final results yields a few important lessons.
No Lead Is Safe
Players who lead after three rounds rarely win the tournament in majors, but Adam Scott seemed to be poised to buck that trend after finishing an incredible 11-under par after three rounds.
As usual, though, the leader found a way to squander his lead. In fact, most of the players at the top of the leaderboard ended up falling back in the final round.
Of course, Scott's collapse was the most noteworthy. Scott's four-stroke lead seemed to be safe, but he simply was unable to hold on.
Watching Scott break down on the final four holes was heartbreaking, but not terribly surprising.
Scott was inconsistent throughout the tournament, carding an incredible 17 birdies, but also 11 bogeys. At times, he was masterful. And at other times, he was just ordinary.
The field is too good to settle for that kind of inconsistency. A player needs to be at his absolute best to win a tournament. And despite a fantastic start to the tournament, Scott was never really at his best.
Of course, hindsight is 20-20. But after Scott's collapse, golf fans must recognize that every leader has holes in his game, and those holes will almost always keep the leader from finishing what he started.
Tiger Woods Is Still Not Truly Back
Tiger Woods was in the hunt for most of the tournament. As a result, many golf fans were hopeful that Tiger might finally be back.
The Tiger these fans know and love, though, always brings his best performance for the final round.
This time, Tiger collapsed under pressure, and the collapse proved he is still not ready to take back his throne as the best player in golf.
Tiger still seems to lack the same pop in his swing that made him an elite player, as he finished with a shockingly low driving average of just 276.1 yards. Since Tiger hit the iron off the tee frequently, this is a slightly misleading number. Still, the monster drives that Tiger used to hit were noticeably absent.
This, combined with his poor putting, kept Tiger from finally getting another major.
These problems seem unlikely to go away soon. We may have to admit that Tiger will never again be a truly special player.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Ernie Els was almost nobody's favorite heading into the British Open, and even after three rounds, he was an afterthought to the seemingly dominant Scott and the rejuvenated Tiger.
Els fooled everybody, though, and showed yet again that consistency wins.
Though his best round was a mere three-under par, Els never blew up, recovering from mistakes and never stringing them together.
At the punishing Royal Lytham, the ability to recover from mistakes was key. Els did a great job of avoiding catastrophe with his excellent approach shots—he led the field in greens in regulation.
Els didn't have to be great to take home the trophy.
Instead, he simply watched as the course's difficulty ate up his competitors, while Els continued to play simple, consistent golf. That kind of golf will win more often than not.