There is nothing like a final day at The Open Championship and after three fairly benign conditions, the early forecasts of breezy conditions looked to proved true as a stiff breeze was already in evidence on course. The complexion of the final day was potentially changing before the leaders had even arrived on course., and with the exception of Nicolas Colsaerts who was 4 under through 11, there was little in the way of forward movement up the leaderboard by the early starters. One story grabbing the early headlines was that the surprise appearance of Carlos Tevez on the bag of Andres Romero, it is safe to say that it didn’t have a positive effect for Romero’s game as he shot a woeful 82 to all but guarantee a finishing position of dead last.
Rory McIlroy was first of the big names to get into the clubhouse with a disappointing 72 hole total of 8 over , and that score marked the 4th consecutive over par total in Major since his majestic US Open win last June. Should he suffer another disappointment at the forthcoming USPGA Championship it may not be enough to say it wasn’t my week and for his supporters to justify the failure with a comparison of his record in the Majors since his maiden US Open victory to that of Tiger Woods following his 1997 maiden Masters win up to his 1999 PGA victory, a comparison that is too soon to make and even now doesn’t make pleasant reading anyway. Either I think Rory needs to concentrate on his game and not on the hype that surrounds him, he is too young and too talented to allow himself to continue this disappointing run in the Majors.
As the final pairings made their way out onto the course, nothing could prepare them for the drama that lay ahead, for much of the round it looked like Adam Scott would hang to win his first Major despite being 3 over par through 16 holes. However in the space of a few moments, the destiny of the 2012 Open Championship switched dramatically, Ernie Els who had been sneaking under the radar throughout the back nine holed a birdie on 18 to get to 7 under. The cheers from that rang out back to 17th fairway where Scott was waiting to play his approach to the green, we may never know if his shot was a reaction to that cheer but what we do know is he pulled his approach and from there he couldn’t recover to save par and bogey on 18 was the killer blow and the victor was Els and his 2nd Claret Jug become a reality. It marked the culmination of a difficult time for Els who missed his first Masters in April for the first time since 1994. Much of struggle in his game has been caused by his misfiring putter, he still looked jittery with his flat stick at times this week but he holed the crucial putts that mattered.
The victory of Els marked the 16th different winner of Major Championship and amazingly, in view of the amount of young talent around the golfing world, the 6th of the 16 older than 35. This week has further illustrated the depth of talent, both young and old, in golf and it would be no surprise to see the run of different winners continue in 3 weeks time at the USPGA Championship. That tournament will now be in the forefront of the mind of the golfing elite and of course I will be previewing it in depth but back to the present and a final look at my ten to follow, which produced the winner, runner up, third place and 2 of the 10 players tied for 9th (Not that I am boasting)
Tiger Woods, win or lose, will always be the biggest talking point of the field and this week will be no different. Much has been made of his tactic of taking irons off the majority of tees, and there will be no shortage of criticism of that tactic in light of failure to make a serious challenge for the title despite his third place finish. The reality is that he would be have been criticised if he took driver and sprayed it around the course, he is pretty much up against in that respect. I don’t feel his game plan was wrong because it was pointless him playing a driver he clearly has no confidence in. I do think he does need to consider how he can bring his driver back into play more regularly with confidence if he is to win another Open Championship, the reality is that he can probably play without it in most tournaments in the US so how much he will view it as a pressing need remains to be seen. He will still feel he has more Majors in him but how many more before nagging doubts become a screaming concern.
Lee Westwood had a week to forget and I think he knows that time is not on his side as he seeks to win his first Major. Whether he was still carrying a niggle in his groin from his slip at the French Open remains to be seen but his play was nowhere near the level required or expected by him. He will require a giant leap forward in the next 2 weeks if he is to contend at Kiwiah Island, and I do think the short gap in time might just benefit him as he knows he will have to straight to work on his game in time for the WGC at Akron which starts a week on Thursday.
Dustin Johnson will be hugely disappointed with his performance this week, he consistently gave himself a mountain to climb in rounds and made too many mistakes at critical times, he should take heart in the fact that he managed to finish at level par and didn’t allow any of his rounds to become horror shows. The game is clearly there for Dustin and it just needs to click together in a Major and he will blitz the field, such is the level of his game. He just needs to stick at it and focus his mind on Kiwiah Island, which is a course that will suit him well.
Rickie Fowler impressed me a great deal this weekend, he looked clearly uncomfortable with his swing but played through it and should be commanded for that as he could easily have played with no real commitment and got away with it. He continues to cope with the hype and pressure that surrounds him and he has massive future ahead of him, like McIlroy he just needs to concentrate on his golf and the rest will take care of itself.
Miguel Angel Jimenez will no doubt look at Ernie Els and Darren Clarke and get a tinge of hope that perhaps his expiration date for Major glory hasn’t passed. In reality, he probably will never get near to winning a Major in the reminder of his career but he is such a character that he will always be cheered from the 1st tee to 18th green. He will reflect on this week in much the same vain as Dustin, too many mistakes were made and he did well to break even for the weekend, his primary aim for the next year will be to end his drought of European Tour victories which is on the brink of reaching two years.
Retief Goosen will have been relatively pleased with his play over the first two days, nothing spectacular but safe enough with two 70’s, he will wonder though what happened over this weekend as he shipped 9 shots to finish in a tie for 64th, his worse Open performance since he missed the cut in 1996. Perhaps his recent tie for 10th in the US Open masked where his game really is currently. Like Jimenez, his number one priority will be getting back into the winners circle, having been out of it since March 2009.
Andres Romero could well come in for some criticism for his decision to allow Carlos Tevez to carry his bag today, an act some will view as disrespectful to the championship. The reality is he was out of contention after a woeful 77 yesterday, but his score of 82 today will do nothing to convince anyone that he took today seriously.
Tom Watson may well have played his last round of Open Championship golf as it looks like Father Time has caught up with Tom, the ongoing problems with his right hand make it difficult for him to perform all aspects of the game without pain and you would have to question the logic in him continuing to play through that pain, he might well make an appearance at Muirfield next July out of respect of the exemption he earned at Turnberry but that would also mean an appearance the following year when he will be on the verge of turning 65. If it is to be Tom’s last Open, thanks for the memories of 2009.
Adam Scott will have little time to get over his heartbreak today, with a defence of his WGC at Akron due to kick off in 11 days and the USPGA Championship a week later. He will rue his final day which promised so much but in reality it was always struggling to stem the bleeding from self inflicted cuts as early as the first hole. The last four holes were his outdoing ultimately, but the damage was done early as he struggled to gain any forward momentum in his round.
Ernie Els came into this week without a win since December 2010 and has in reality struggled to find consistent form, but he showed signs of a resurgence this season and he has always played some of his best golf in The Open and he justified my faith in his ability with a win that arguably had as much to do with Scott’s collapse as it did his play but I would be quick to point that he showed remarkable resilience throughout the week as he bounced back from a whole host of setbacks, including two double bogey’s in his second round, to stay in contention all week and he got his reward in the form of a Claret Jug.
I hope everyone who has read my posts throughout the past four days has enjoyed them and found that have added to their Open Championship experience, I will continue to post previews and analysis of a variety of sporting events in the upcoming month’s. For those who are solely interested in Golf, I will be back on the Golfing trail with the USPGA Championship in 18 days time, though not quite in the detail of this tournament due to time implications of Transatlantic viewing. Those who wish to tweet at me in the meantime can find @carlosportsman.