Els Wins a Second Open
Though not too many had expected such a result, Ernie Els emerged as the 2012 Open champion as he handed in a closing 68 to finish on a seven-under-par tally which was good enough to defeat Adam Scott by one. The 42-year-old South African will now be the defending champion at Muirfield, the course where he won his first Open 10 years ago.
"A year ago," said Els, "I didn't think I would ever win this again. Recently, though, I've had good vibes. I'm in a much more positive mode."
In his speech, he thanked the great team and family he has around him, but first he spoke feelingly of Scott, the player who had been set to win before he finished with four bogies in a row. "First of all," he began, "I want to say something to my buddy, Adam. Scotty, you're a great player and a great friend. You're going to win many of these things with your talent."
At the 14th, Scott had holed a 15-footer for a birdie which had him looking every inch a champion. Then, though, he dropped a shot at the 15th, which did not bother him over much, before dropping another at the 16th. This one really hurt, a missed four-footer.
Even as he was trying to put it to the back of his mind there came the roar from the 18th green which told how Els had holed a long putt to go to seven under par.
Scott hauled his second left at the penultimate hole on his way to a five and, as he teed up at the 18th, he and Els were level. He could not afford another mistake but he made one just the same, driving into sand and ultimately missing the ten-footer he needed to force a play-off. He fell to his knees and shook his head in disbelief.
"I had a great chance," he said ruefully, before adding that Els' words had meant a lot. "I respect Ernie so much. He's a worthy champion - again."
Open pressures extended to all those spectators who made use of the HSBC Golf Zone, for which the figures were up by some 10,000 from a year ago. As applied every day, people were arriving early to have a shot at getting out of the endlessly popular Road Hole Bunker.
There was a 30-strong queue almost all week but, where most queues tend to bring out the worst in people, this one was as good natured as they come. Those who hit the green without rebounding off one of the walls, which was the object of the exercise, received plenty in the way of applause, while no-one felt overly embarrassed when they failed to exit the trap. There were too many others doing the same.
Those who turned up at the same time as Gary Player on Saturday had been unable to believe their luck. Not only did they see the great man - arguably the best bunker-player of all time - exiting the trap no bother, but he gave a running commentary as to how he was getting his results.
Paul Casey, from the ranks of the Open golfers, so enjoyed the HSBC Golf Zone experience that he was allowed the seven tries he wanted as against the two given to the public. Of his seven tries, he stayed aboard the green five times but without being one of the elite few - there were five by Sunday lunchtime - who holed in one.
Tim Henman, an HSBC ambassador, visited the bunker once a day and sometimes twice, while Gavin Hastings, who was at Lytham in the same role, was another regular and a pretty successful one at that.
Though there were plenty of families having fun in the Zone, the number of women prepared to test their bunker skills was minimal. Yet there was one, a 16-year-old girl by name of Claudia Marazita, who stood out. She hit two bunker shots too perfection and, unlike the man who did two laps of the green when he made a good fist of the exercise, she played it cool, giving a brief smile before going on her way.
It was as if to say that it was only what she did all the time.
Scott Keeps His Cool
created on: 21st Jul 2012
Where so many of those on the leader-board had an up-and-down third day, Adam Scott remained on an even keel throughout. After tacking a 68 to opening rounds of 64 and 67, he goes into the fourth round four ahead of Brandt Snedeker and Graeme McDowell - and five clear of that man of 14 majors, Tiger Woods.
Scott, who at 32 has still to bag his first major, holed a couple of grand par-saving putts at each of the first and third and was already in possession of a four-shot lead as he turned in 32. There was one little lapse at the 13th where he missed a five-footer but, against that, there was a heady moment at the 17th as he hit from one bunker over another - and ended up just tap-in distance from the hole.
Though he had looked more than a little uncomfortable as he stood with one foot in the sand and the other outside it, he had advised his caddie, Steve Williams, "I can handle this."
Which was why, when he so nearly holed out, Williams purported to be surprised that the ball had failed to drop. "I thought you said you could handle it," said the caddie, dryly.
While Scott was steering clear of most of the trouble, Snedeker was finding it in abundance. Over the first two days, he had avoided all of the 206 bunkers. In his third round, he found out what they were all about...
He caught one at the first and another at the sixth where he had to play out backwards. Away from the traps, he had several excursions into the rough, while on the one occasion he had a good bounce - off a spectator - he proceeded to duff his chip.
Yet all was not lost. Though he had slipped from ten under to five under by the 14th, this likable competitor pinned down two birdies in his last three holes, making what seemed like a cross-Britain putt on the home green to a roar of applause.
McDowell arrived at his seven-under tally altogether differently. He had started the day at four under, dipped to three and, after turning in 34, had a homeward half in which was full of mounting excitement.The winner of the 2010 US Open has the bit between his teeth and there are plenty to suggest that he might prove no less of a threat to Scott than Woods.
Woods, who had a 70 to be lying on his own in fourth place at six under, headed straight to the practice ground at the end of what was obviously a frustrating day. His irons had gone close but not close enough, while his putter was not the magic wand it can be. That, though, is not to say that it will not ignite amid the mounting pressure.
Apart from his temperament, Scott's greatest weapons are the long putter he is wielding to such telling effect - and Steve Williams. The latter, who parted company with Woods just over a year ago, knows a thing or two about winning majors and he knows how to get the best out of Scott.
"Steve and I are getting on well," confirmed the leader. "He believes in the way I'm going about my business. He's a confident guy and his confidence can rub off.
"I'm excited for tomorrow and I truly believe I can go out and play a great round."
The saddest goings-on at the end of the third day concerned Paul Lawrie. The Scot, who was still one under par when he mounted the 18th tee, finished at two over after taking three putts from five feet and four in all. "I'm hitting 30-footers five to six feet past," said the player. "It was quite the worst I've ever putted in a tournament."
Snedeker Has The Half-way Lead
Created on: 20th Jul 2012
A cough and a cracked rib kept him out of the US Open but the 31-year-old Brandt Snedeker is going into the last two rounds of this Open championship with a record half-way tally of ten-under par and a one-shot lead over Adam Scott.
In the absence of a blue sky, Snedeker's sky-blue sweater provided a welcome splash of colour, while he further endeared himself to the British public by playing with a minimum of preliminaries. Like his great hero, Tom Watson, he makes a quick - and usually smart - decision before swinging for real.
All of which made his playing of the 18th still more compelling... First, he showed endless patience as he waited for a rather less decisive golfer in front to plot his escape from a fairway bunker. Next, after he had chopped out of the right rough, he cheerfully carried on with his third at a time when the crowd were yelling good-naturedly at the marshals who were impeding their view.
He hit through the hullabaloo to five feet - and holed for a stunner of a par.
Over his first two rounds, Snedeker had notched nothing worse than a bogey, while he had visited none among Lytham's 206 bunkers. Mind you, word had it that he, or someone very like him, had been spotted in the Road Hole Bunker in the HSBC Golf Zone.
Snedeker made no less of a good impression after his round.
When he arrived in the media centre, his opening gambit was one of, "I'm sure that everyone in this room is in as much shock as I am."
Then, when someone asked if he could say a bit about himself for the sake of those British people who did not know who he was, this unassuming soul laughingly observed that there would be a whole lot of Americans saying precisely the same. (And never mind that he tied for third in the 2008 Masters after having had a share of the last-round lead following an eagle at the second.)
There have been plenty of overseas players who are not enjoying this week's conditions, but Snedeker is looking only at positives. Yes, there has been rain, but he has played two rounds in nothing more than a five mph wind.
Even though he missed the cut in his three previous Opens, he revels in his trips to this side of the Atlantic and has been spotted in a couple of local bars. "I love being over here," he explained. "I enjoy the lifestyle and I enjoy the golf."
It was Hunter Mahan who, when he caught sight of Snedeker sneaking up the leader-board at the start of the day, noted that once Snedeker got hot, he tended to stay hot.
Modest though he is, Snedeker was not about to deny as much. "Once I get going," he acknowledged, "I tend to keep going."
However, he is not allowing himself to look ahead. As he said, a single bad hole can do for a player out here.
There have been plenty of famous names finishing on the wrong side of the cut, most notably Phil Mickelson who had back-to-back sixes in a second-round 78 which left him at 11 over par to Snedeker's 10 under. Paul Casey closed on the same mark as Mickelson, while Angel Cabrera, a former winner of the US Open and the Masters, was one shot more,
On a happier note, Jeev Milkha Singh and Anirban Lahiri, who finished, respectively, on one over par and level, provided Indian golf with something more to celebrate following on from Singh's win last week in the Scottish Open which has propelled him into the HSBC Champions later in the year. This is the first time that two Indian players have made the cut in an Open.
Earlier in the week, Lahari was to be seen meditating in the wind and rain on the beach.
Players & Fans In It Together
Created on: 19th Jul 2012
One by one, the world's greatest players have been talking about Lytham's 206 bunkers and how important it will be to steer clear of these well-placed hazards over the next four days.
"The one neat thing about them," said Tiger Woods, hitting on a positive, "is that they're raised. "You can see them and, for the most part, you can shape your ball away to the right or the left. At St Andrews, in contrast, there are a lot you can't see..."
Woods, who would be back as the World No 1 were he to win this week, pointed to how there are several instances where it is not just a matter of hitting over one bunker but of stopping short of another.
Darren Clarke, the defending champion, suggested that the face-lifts given to the traps - they have all been re-done since the last Lytham Open - have them looking more unappetising than ever.
Though many of the players have been concerning themselves more with the length of the rough, Padraig Harrington said that he sees the bunkers as rather more of a threat. "At least the rough is patchy enough to yield a few good lies among the bad," said this two-time Open champion.
"The bunkers," continued Harrington, "aren't going to be that bad if the sun comes out and the sand is light and fluffy. It's when they're damp that they become so difficult. If you get a poor lie, which is that much more likely in bad weather, it's hard to get the ball up quickly."
The R&A reported this morning that that some of the bunkers have been giving cause for concern after last night's heavy rain. A greenside bunker at the second comes into that category, with the same applying to those assorted traps at the 14th. 16th and 17th.
Peter Dawson, the CEO of the R&A, said that things had improved somewhat since a major pumping installation on the far side of the town had been switched on to help to moderate the water level in the whole area. "The course does dry out quickly and, with the forecast as it is, we could be back to more links-like conditions by tomorrow," he indicated. Apparently, tonight's rainfall is expected to give way to rather better conditions at at around 4 o'clock in the morning.
Since the replica of the Road Hole Bunker in the HSBC Golf Zone (the 207th bunker at Lytham) is not under cover, visitors to the Zone are going to come up against the same problems as Harrington and the rest of the stars. For the moment at least, it is going to be doubly tough to escape the world's most infamous hazard.
Though men were proving the bolder of the sexes in terms of having a go, there were more and more women joining the queue this morning. Techniques were many and varied but Colin Montgomerie and Gary Player will be in situ at some point tomorrow to show how it's done.
At Royal St George's last year, the septuagenarian Player, who is arguably the best bunker player of all time, deposited his ball by the hole. As for Monty, he, too, was the proud recipient of a certificate for hitting and sticking the green.
Montgomerie had sneaked into the Zone on his way to a dinner and, in a bid to make the best possible fist of the exercise, took off his suit jacket. "I know I got my certificate," said the Scot, "but I could definitely have made a better job of it. This time around, I'm going to open the face of the club a bit more.
"It's a bit of fun but you want to do it well."
Kaymer's quiet confidence
Created on: 16th Jul 2012
"Sometimes," explains Kaymer, "they will notice that I have lost a bit of focus, or they might say, 'You need to go back to doing such and such a thing.' The point is they are always honest with me and you can never get upset by that."
Multi-tasking At The Open
Created on: 11th Jul 2012
With the last 15 majors having sired as many as 15 different champions, not too many are prepared to hazard a guess.
Youngsters From King Edward VII & Queen Mary Get To Grips With The Open Championship's Claret Jug
Created on 11th Jul 2012
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