It was hard not to love seeing Ernie Els – after all he’s been through on the major stages – return to glory at age 42 by hoisting the Claret Jug as a four-time major winner.
It was easy to hate seeing Adam Scott – one of the classiest acts in golf and a gifted player – collapse with four closing bogeys to blow a major that should have been his.
Els sinking a clutch putt on the 72nd hole was vintage stuff and makes him a very popular champion golfer of the year, but to see his second act come at the expense of Scott’s opening act left a bitter taste even in the South African’s mouth.
Scott will surely be replaying all the errors that compounded down the stretch at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.
How could he dump it in a bunker from the fairway on 15? How could he three-putt the short 16th?
How could he miss short-side left on 17 when as Graeme McDowell said “all of England was to the right?”
How could he hit 3-wood off 18 into a fairway bunker instead of laying back and ensuring par and a playoff shot?
In short, how could he lose a British Open that seemed to be all his from the moment he tied the course record with 64 in the first round?
While Scott was the biggest loser and Els the ultimate winner at Lytham, there was plenty more to digest from the week.
BOGEY: Tiger Woods. Dating back to his first career 54-hole major failure at the 2009 PGA, Woods completed a career slam in blown chances. He faded from a share of the lead Sunday at the 2011 Masters, retreated from a 36-hole lead at Olympic last month and made a catastrophic mistake in the bunker on Sunday at Lytham that led to a crushing triple.
BIRDIE: Dr. Sherylle Calder. The South African performance coach will be in hot demand after her eye gym cured Els’ putting woes to the point she predicted he’d “win a major this year.”
BOGEY: Scott. History suggests Scott might have a hard time getting over tossing this prime opportunity away. Then again, maybe he’ll pull a Rory McIlory and snap right back at the PGA. Here’s hoping he does.
BIRDIE: Brandt Snedeker. Two birdie-free rounds seemed destined for ruin when he started crashing on weekend, but he held it together well enough to tie Tiger. His putting made a strong case for Ryder Cup consideration.
BOGEY: McDowell. Second consecutive major without making it happen from the final group.
BIRDIE: Luke Donald. Sure it was a back-door top-five and he never really featured, but after flaming out in three of the previous four majors – including two missed cuts – just being in the neighborhood was a big step for the world No. 1.
BOGEY: Lee Westwood. Never got anything going despite what seemed to be the perfect setup for him: requiring accuracy but not too much putting pressure.
BIRDIE: Nicolas Colsaerts. Belgian’s bookend 65s did an awful lot to help introduce him as a strong candidate for a Ryder Cup captain’s pick.
BOGEY: McIlroy. His Congressional glory is starting to seem very long ago the more he fails to factor in big tournaments.
BIRDIE: Thorbjorn Olesen. The personable 22-year-old Dane held his own playing the main stage with his idol Tiger. Nice to see new blood.
PAR: Bubba Watson. The reigning Masters champ was in the mix before fizzling on Sunday like almost everybody else.
BIRDIE: Old dudes. Tom Watson made another Open cut at age 62 and AARP mate Mark Calcavecchia posted a top-10 finish. Links golf truly is timeless.
BOGEY: Phil Mickelson. Last year’s runner-up lost whatever positive steps he made in links golf. He beat only eight players this time and left as dejected as you’ll ever see Lefty, muttering “I just don’t know what to say.”
BOGEY: Steve Williams. Almost exactly a year after he declared himself a great “front-runner,” he couldn’t keep his man from choking. Seems his old boss might have contributed more than the caddie gave him credit for.
BOGEY: English weather. Bad enough that the wettest season in 100 years made the rough a gnarly mess, but three tournament days of no wind was insult to injury.
PAR: Royal Lytham & St. Annes. The course didn’t get to show off its best features with the benign weather, but its pedigree of champs wasn’t diminished with a Hall of Fame winner.
BIRDIE: John Deere. Fresh winner Zach Johnson (T9) and three-time champ Steve Stricker (T23) proved you can take the late charter from Illinois and still contend in the British.
BOGEY: Mike Weir. As if losing his game isn’t enough, he lost his biggest draw to his pre-Canadian Open golf day event to an Els family celebration. I’m sure Ernie will make it up to him.
BIRDIE: Party players. After the season’s first two majors were won by teetotaling Bible study regulars, the Claret Jug passed from one inveterate drinker to another. Cheers.
BOGEY: Long and belly putters. Once again someone anchoring a putter won (and lost) a major, making it three of the past four. Governing bodies plan to rule on the legality of anchoring clubs by the end of the year, and R&A officials seem to be leaning toward a ban.
BOGEY: Royal Portrush. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the R&A to take the Open back to the very deserving Northern Irish links. Pity.