So what exactly happened today at the British Open? What factors caused Adam Scott to buckle under pressure and bogey the last 4 holes? And what factors caused Ernie Els to hang in there on a day when so many others struggled, putting himself in position to win? Let’s do a comparison.
1. Failure to Execute. It is fair to say that Adam got comfortable with a 4-shot lead with 4 holes to go. He was calm and relaxed and laughing with his caddie, Steve Williams, who won multiple majors caddying for Tiger Woods. Adam started to struggle with his execution, missing a short putt on 16 that lipped out, hitting it over the green on 17 failing to get up and down, and hitting a poor drive on 18, leaving him a sideways shot from the bunker. Despite his brilliant approach shot to the 18th green, you could tell he was not mentally sharp coming down the stretch.
2. Lack of Experience. Though Adam is an exceptionally talented player and performed great all week, he had never been in this position before (the final group on the final day of a major). How many times have we seen something astonishing happen at the end of the British Open? It’s happened more often than we might think. “With one hand on the Claret Jug,” as Paul Azinger commented, his putter let him down, and he had no past successes (in majors) to draw from. He started playing not to lose, rather than to win.
3. Loss of Confidence. In the end, Adam lost his confidence when it mattered most. Like most of the leaders on Sunday – Tiger Woods, Graeme McDowell, Brandt Snedeker, and finally Adam Scott – once they experienced adversity, they were not able to persevere and bounce back.
1. Ability to Execute. Ernie hung in there the entire tournament, despite having many putts barely miss. He knew he was playing well and that “anything can happen” – because it has many times before. In the biggest moments, on the biggest stage, Ernie made cruicial putts on the final holes to get into the clubhouse with a chance to win.
2. Valuable Experience. Ernie won the British Open back in 2002. He’s also won 2 U.S. Opens and many other tournaments worldwide. He’s been in this position before, knowing and believing that if he played his game, he could come out victorious.
3. Feeling of Confidence. Despite many missed putts during the week, Ernie knew he was close, and proceeded to drain the 15-foot putt on the 18th hole to go 7 under par. He was calm, relaxed, and at peace with whatever was about to happen. He was torn afterward because of his friendship with Adam Scott and said he “feels for his buddy.” Ernie is as humble as they come, and has now won majors in 3 different decades.
You see, golf is a sport where you have no control over your opponent. There is no defense for a great round by a fellow competitor. In golf, you play against yourself and the course. Many times, you have to “tip your cap” to someone else who had a better week than you. But in golf, anything can happen – and today, it did.