‘It slipped through my fingers’Comment on this story
Lytham, England - As a teenager back home in Australia, Adam Scott was shocked to watch Greg Norman's infamous 1996 Masters meltdown to Nick Faldo on television - now he knows how it feels.
The 32-year-old had a four-stroke lead with four holes to play in the British Open and looked to be coasting towards what would have been his first major title only for disaster to strike.
He failed to get up and down out of a pot bunker at the 15th and missed a three-footer for par at the next. At the same time, a charging Ernie Els was sinking a 15-footer for a birdie at Royal Lytham's arena-like 18th hole.
The huge cheer that went up to acclaim that effort rolled over the course to Scott on the 17th, who promptly mis-hit a straightforward approach shot into thick rough left of the green and took three to get down from there.
That left him needing a par at the last to force a playoff, but his tee shot ended up tight against the vertical face of a fairway bunker, leaving him the lone option of hitting out sideways.
He hit his approach to eight feet, but let his par putt slip agonisingly left of the hole to complete a shocking collapse that left Norman as the last Australian winner of the Open 19 years ago at Royal St George's.
Scott, one of the most popular players on the tour who has been touted as a major winner since he turned pro in 2000, insisted it had not been a bout of nerves that had been his downfall, just poor shot-making at the wrong moment.
“I know I've let a really great chance slip through my fingers today,” he said. “But somehow I'll look back and take the positives from it.
“I don't think I've ever played this well in a major championship, so that's a good thing for me moving forward. All the stuff I'm doing is going in the right direction. Today is one of those days and that's why they call it golf.”
Scott is also aware that what happened on the Lancashire links course in the summer of 2012 will inevitably be compared to what transpired at Augusta National in the spring of 1996, when Norman let slip a six-stroke lead to Nick Faldo on the final day of the Masters.
Norman, he said, had always been an inspiration for him and that would remain true in triumph and defeat.
“Look, Greg was my hero when I was a kid, and I thought he was a great role model, how he handled himself in victory and defeat,” he said.
“He set a good example for us. It's tough; I can't justify anything that I've done out there. I didn't finish the tournament well today. But next time I'm sure there will be a next time, and I can do a better job of it.”
Scott had looked close to tears as he stood by the side of the 18th green and Els took the time out to have a few words with him before the awards ceremony.
Asked what the now four-time major winner had said to him, Scott replied: “He said he felt for me and not to beat myself up.
“He said he beat himself up a little bit when he'd lost or had a chance not lost them, but had a chance to win.
“And he felt I'm a great player and I can go on to win majors, which is nice.
“We have a close friendship We've had some good battles in the past, and it's nice to hear that from him. I respect Ernie a lot, and he's a player who is a worthy champion here for sure again.”
Scott appeared composed and at ease at his closing press conference although he agreed that the reality of what had hit him might take some time to sink in.
“But I'm a positive guy. I'm optimistic and I want to take all the good stuff that I did this week and use that for the next time I'm out on the course.” - Sapa-AFP