23 July 2012

Deflated Adam Scott Can Bounce Back After Open Meltdown

Yesterday evening Australian Adam Scott was poised to take his maiden major title at Royal Lytham and St Annes in the 141st Open Championship. Standing on the 15th tee he was four shots clear of Ernie Els, his nearest rival, and full of confidence after holing an excellent birdie putt on the previous green. What happened next will go down in Open folklore as he bogeyed the last four holes and lost by a stroke thanks to an Els birdie at the last.

Scott denied that his dramatic collapse was down to nerves: "I definitely worked myself up a little bit at times, but once I was out there I felt completely in control and even the last few holes I didn't really feel like it was a case of nerves or anything like that. It was a very sloppy finish and disappointing to finish that way. I played so well all week." Champion Els said that Scott 'would win majors' and offered his condolences.

The runner-up said that he would try and take the positives out of the week to help him progress. Take away the final four holes and this week was a massive improvement on his previous major appearances. For a man once ranked at three in the world he had had a relatively mediocre major record with just four top tens before his tied for second finish at the 2011 Masters. He has taken four top tens in his last seven majors which is a vast improvement on his four in 37 previous efforts. As a result of his Open challenge he has also risen seven places in the world rankings and is now placed at number six.

However it will be very hard for Scott to see all of these positives as he looks back on a championship that he should have won. At the age of 32 he may not have many more chances to break his major duck and this could play on his mind in the months, maybe years to come. His demise at Lytham will rank as one of the game's worst as he allowed the Claret Jug to slip through his fingers. Other players have suffered similar last round stumbles and have come out the other side in better shape.

Last year Rory McIlroy shot a last round 80 at Augusta, blowing a four shot lead to finish outside the top ten. The Ulsterman's putting game deserted him, missing many short attempts, and four-putted on the twelfth green. Like McIlroy, Scott's putting went walkabout and he missed a three-footer on the 16th before failing to hole crucial putts on 17 and 18. The Australian will be hoping to continue to replicate McIlroy at next month's USPGA championship; McIlroy responded to his Masters meltdown by thrashing the field to win the US Open by eight shots at Congressional.

Other players have had unbelievable falls at majors and never really been able to come back. One example of this is Frenchman Jean Van De Velde who will forever be remembered for his catastrophic triple-bogey on the 72nd hole in the 1999 Open at Carnoustie. On that one hole the journeyman European Tour player managed to find the the rough, the sand, the water and the grandstands as he self-imploded. He then lost in a play-off that Scot Paul Lawrie won by three shots. Van De Velde never again challenged at a top tournament with just one more win on the European Tour and no more top 15 major finishes.

Scott's fellow countryman and idol Greg Norman won two Open championships but was also known for his poor conversion rate when in with a chance at a major. He won just those two majors but finished in the top ten on 28 other occasions and the most famous of these near-misses was at Augusta in 1996. Norman went into the final round with a six-shot lead over England's Nick Faldo only to falter with five bogeys and two double bogeys as he shot 78 to Faldo's 67. Norman never finished in the top two at a major again and could only claim two more professional wins.

Unlike Norman, who was 41 in 1996, Scott may still have a few golfing years in him and will be hopeful of claiming that elusive major victory. He will take heart from McIlroy's comeback at Congressional last year and will hope to build on what was on the whole a good Open Championship. He will tee-off at the USPGA in two weeks time as one of the favourites and will relish that tag as he goes on the major hunt again.

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