Elated Ernie Els comforts Adam Scott after his Open collapse

South African finds time to put an arm around runner-up after snatching victory

Royal Lytham

Wow. The word was uttered in disbelief. Adam Scott's knees went from underneath him, buckled by the most agonising sequence of numbers in Open history. With four to play the Claret Jug was his. A lead of four over Ernie Els appeared impregnable. Then 10 under par became nine, eight, seven and finally, agonisingly after missing from eight feet on the last, six. The jug was gone.

After all his struggles in recent years, his battle with the flat stick that led to the tool of last resort, the long handle putter, Els collected his second Open Championship and fourth major while screening his phone for texts on the putting green. He could barely believe it was his name called by Peter Dawson, the chief executive of the Royal and Ancient, to collect the trophy in front of the clubhouse.

It is said that Lytham produces champions of only the highest class. His birdie at the last to narrow the gap to one was certainly that, but even then it was surely too much to believe that, after a hiatus stretching back to his last major victory at Muirfield a decade ago, victory would be his.

We saw Rory McIlroy burn a four-shot lead on the final day at the Masters last year, but not with four to play. Scott's hero Greg Norman blew a six-shot lead at Augusta in 1996, but again his advantage had gone by the turn before he lost by five.

Scott shed tears that day, watching at home as a 16-year-old boy. He was too shocked to properly digest the meaning of what happened here. "I was so calm during the round. I spent most of my nervous energy leading up to round. On 16 we said ok, we need six good swings to get home. Unfortunately I was unable to do that.

"The shot into 17 was the one that disappointed me most. I did not need to look at the scoreboard to know that Ernie had birdied the last."

Els sympathised with the vanquished. "I feel for my buddy," he said. "I have been there, lost majors, lost tournaments. I just hope he does not take it as hard as I did.

"I'm so happy to have won but I have been at the other end more.

"I saw him in the scorer's hut. He seemed ok. I told him to stay positive, not to let it linger, that he will turn it around. He is still young enough. He's 32. He has 10 years to win more than I have."

The job of engraver can be a fraught affair. Too little time, too big a name are the obvious difficulties, neither of which looked remotely like presenting at Lytham. A sense of inevitability threw a wet blanket over much of the afternoon. Scott was meandering towards the championship. His bogey at 15, after finding a greenside bunker, did not appear terminal. When he horseshoed out at the next, the lead still stood at two.

The crucial intervention came when Els birdied the last with Scott playing the 17th. As much as he tried to convince himself otherwise, the momentum was shifting remorselessly the wrong way. As Scott laboured towards his cruel end Els was killing time.

"The R&A asked me if I wanted to watch but I preferred to go to the putting green. I thought I would be disappointed again. It has happened so many times. The most I was hoping for was a play-off," said Els.

At the start of the day the tension was elsewhere. It was like Christmas morning on the range. Graeme McDowell, surrounded by his key lieutenants, was in a bubble of excitable banter. His coach Pete Cowen was cracking jokes, caddie Kenny Comboy feeding him lines as well as clubs.

Those with an eye for detail would have noticed only a slight remodelling of the Pebble Beach look on the final day, same white shoes, beige trousers and pink top. Only the cardigan changed from grey to blue. McDowell was pumped. Scott made his exit to the tee looking composed, yet it was he who blinked first, three-putting from the middle of the green on the opening par-3. McDowell pulled his tee shot left but got up and down.

At the next it was McDowell's turn to wince, finding sand off the tee. From there all he could do was chip out sideways. Scott drilled his approach to three feet and tapped in for birdie. McDowell bogeyed to fall five behind.

The promised wind was starting to blow, nudging the speedometer at 20mph-plus. Scott found sand with his approach to the third and was back to 10 over par. All across the park Lytham was flexing its muscles. Brandt Snedeker dropped four shots in two holes after six successive pars.

His playing partner Tiger Woods went to the turn three over for his round, Zach Johnson the same. The wind was bringing bunkers into play, giving us the brutal Lytham of fable.

McDowell narrowed the gap to three with a birdie at the eighth but gave the shot back immediately after a clumsy chip at the ninth.

Up ahead Els announced his candidacy with two birdies in the opening three holes of the inward nine to draw level with McDowell on five under. With his putter acquiring the heat of old, Els was again becoming a feature at a major on the last day. He burst out of the margins on the final day of the US Open to remind the world of the talent he was and might be again.

When McDowell bogeyed the 10th Els was second on his own. He must have heard the groans. His approach to the 13th was laser-like in its pursuit of the pin. It would not yield the birdie he wanted but in this phase of the contest failure was relative.

McDowell was moments from a duck hook at the 11th that would end his chances. Scott, too was about to unravel. When Els gained a final opportunity at the last he made it stick and the Claret Jug was his.

Not-so-great Scott: But Adam isn't the only one to have self-destructed in a major

5.33pm Adam Scott leads by four shots with four holes to play after Ernie Els birdies the 16th

5.44pm Els misses the chance to birdie 17 but a dropped shot by Scott (at 15) takes the lead down to three

5.54pm Scott misses par on the 16th, his lead down to two

5.58pm A birdie on the last for Els and another bogey at 17 reduces Scott's lead to one

6.11pm Scott finds a bunker with his tee shot on the 18th as a play-off looks likely

6.21pm A 10ft putt is missed by Scott, giving Els the spoils for his fourth major title

Previously: Rory McIlroy – 2011 US Masters, Augusta

McIlroy began with a first round of 65 and went into the final 18 holes with a four-shot lead, but the 21-year-old from Northern Ireland collapsed to a closing round of 80 to finish 10 shots behind eventual champion Charl Schwartzel.

Greg Norman – 1996 US Masters, Augusta

Norman shot a course-record 63 in the first round and went into the last 18 holes with a six-shot lead over Nick Faldo. However, it was all downhill from there for the Australian, who carded five bogeys and two double-bogeys on his way to a six-over 78. In contrast, Faldo carded a 67 to claim his third Green Jacket after turning his six-shot deficit into a five-shot winning margin.

Final leaderboard

141st OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP, Royal Lytham & St Annes GC, Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, Final round (GB & Irl unless stated, par 70): 273 E Els (SA) 67 70 68 68; 274 A Scott (Aus) 64 67 68 75; 277 T Woods (US) 67 67 70 73; B Snedeker (US) 66 64 73 74; 278 G McDowell 67 69 67 75; L Donald 70 68 71 69; 279 T Aiken (SA) 68 68 71 72; N Colsaerts (Bel) 65 77 72 65; 280 Z Johnson (US) 65 74 66 75; M Kuchar (US) 69 67 72 72; G Ogilvy (Aus) 72 68 73 67; D Johnson (US) 73 68 68 71; V Singh (Fji) 70 72 68 70; A Noren (Swe) 71 71 69 69; M Calcavecchia (US) 71 68 69 72; T Olesen (Den) 69 66 71 74; M Angel Jimenez (Sp) 71 69 73 67; I Poulter 71 69 73 67; 281 H Mahan (US) 70 71 70 70; S Alker (NZ) 69 69 72 71; B Haas (US) 71 68 68 74; L Oosthuizen (SA) 72 68 68 73; 282 N Watney (US) 71 70 69 72; S Stricker (US) 67 71 73 71; B Watson (US) 67 73 68 74; M Baldwin 69 73 69 71; S Dyson 72 67 73 70; J Morrison 68 70 72 72; P Hanson (Swe) 67 72 72 71; C Pettersson (Swe) 71 68 73 70; 283 J Dufner (US) 70 66 73 74; R Fowler (US) 71 72 70 70; A Lahiri (India) 68 72 70 73; 284 K Bradley (US) 71 72 68 73; J Furyk (US) 72 70 71 71; P Lawrie 65 71 76 72; J Senden (Aus) 70 71 75 68; G Woodland (US) 73 70 70 71; 285 F Molinari (It) 69 72 71 73; K Stanley (US) 70 69 70 76; K J Choi (S Kor) 70 73 71 71; T Matteson (US) 70 72 71 72; P Harrington 70 72 70 73; R Sterne (SA) 69 73 73 70; 286 J Hicks (US) 68 74 69 75; R Fisher 72 71 74 69; J Luiten (Neth) 73 70 69 74; G Chalmers (Aus) 71 68 71 76; R Echenique (Arg) 73 69 71 73; S Khan 70 69 71 76; P Larrazabal (Sp) 73 70 71 72; B Estes (US) 69 72 74 71; L Westwood 73 70 71 72; 287 F Jacobson (Swe) 69 73 73 72; T Bjorn (Den) 70 69 72 76; G Owen 71 71 71 74; Y Fujimoto (Japan) 71 70 73 73; G Fernandez-Castano (Sp) 71 71 72 73; H English (US) 71 71 70 75; 288 R McIlroy 67 75 73 73; T Potter; Jr. (US) 69 71 74 74; D Whitnell 71 69 72 76; J Donaldson 68 72 72 76; 289 G Mulroy (SA) 71 69 72 77; R Goosen (SA) 70 70 75 74; Sang-moon Bae (S Kor) 72 71 71 75; L Slattery 69 72 75 73; C Howell III (US) 72 71 74 72; 290 A Baddeley (Aus) 71 71 74 74; J Milkha Singh (India) 70 71 76 73; A Da Silva (Br) 69 74 71 76; 291 J Pagunsan (Phil) 71 72 73 75; C Campbell (US) 73 70 74 74; T Muto (Japan) 67 72 74 78; M Laird 70 69 82 70; B Jones (Aus) 69 74 72 76; 292 T Watson (US) 71 72 76 73; B Grace (SA) 73 69 71 79; W Bennett 71 70 75 76; T Jaidee (Thai) 69 71 74 78; 294 J Daly (US) 72 71 77 74; R Cabrera Bello (Sp) 70 71 76 77; 298 A Romero (Arg) 70 69 77 82.

News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
A polar bear’s diet is rich in seal blubber and half of its own body weight is composed of fat
i100
Life and Style
fashion David Beckham fronts adverts for his underwear collection
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
tv
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape