LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England — Ernie Els closed like the champion he is on Sunday at the 141st Open Championship with two pars and the all-important birdie putt on No. 18 to clinch the victory.
But no one should be shocked: Els was 5 under for the week on the last three holes, including 3 under on No. 18.
That is head and shoulders over those that won at Royal Lytham in 1988, 1996 and 2001.
Seve Ballesteros was 1 under over the closing stretch and 1 over on the final hole.
Tom Lehman was a bit better at 2 under, but like Ballesteros was 1 over on the 18th.
In 2001, David Duval had the least success over the closing stretch. At 1 over, Duval also was 1 over for the week on No. 18 in his lone major championship victory.
Els was over par on only two holes for the week. The first was the modified sixth hole that was a par 5 that played as a par 4, with Els going 1 over for the four days (he would have been 3 under if it was a par 5).
Els was also over par was the par-3 ninth. Els bogeyed No. 9 on Sunday and pointed to it as the burr that got under his saddle and propelled him to victory hitting driver down the stretch and shooting 32 on the back nine.
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• NICE FINISH: As everyone was struggling to make pars in the afternoon, Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts was back in his hotel watching his name flow up the leaderboard, first slowly, but as the round progressed quicker and quicker.
In the end, Colsaerts moved up 47 spots to seventh after a final-round, 5-under 65.
The positive move clearly was a boon for his wallet, but the move also may have solidified his spot on the European Ryder Cup team.
“The last couple of tournaments I was in, I was in a very good position after Scottish after two rounds and French after three, and there was maybe a little too much in my mind,” Colsaerts said of getting distracted by thinking about the Ryder Cup. “When you play this golf course in this sort of wind, you’re a little busy, so you don’t really have time to think about something else, which certainly helped with this round today.”
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• SOLID WEEK: Luke Donald backed into a top five on Sunday with a final-round 69. But maybe what was more important was the fact that he has a little bit of his swagger back after a tough four days at Royal Lytham.
“I worked hard on my long game,” Donald said. “I spent a lot more time on the range than I usually would. As a result that helps. I felt comfortable in terms of my game and I was able to go out there and enjoy it a little bit more.”
The pressure of being World No. 1 and not winning a major seemed to gnaw at Donald when he missed the cut at the U.S. Open last month. His focus after that was to be a little more relaxed and try to play golf without the pressure of a nation on his shoulders.
If his final round was any barometer, Donald’s experience may be part of a significant maturation process that will culminate in a major win.
“I’ll come away from here with a lot of confidence knowing that my game tee?to?green was easily good enough to win this week.”
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• CALLING IT QUITS: Andy Prodger carried K.J. Choi’s bag for the last time on Sunday. Prodger decided it was time for him to retire and told Choi so after the final round. Choi had been using a substitute caddie since after the U.S. Open to give Prodger some rest, but in the end the Englishman could not handle the grind of travel any longer. Choi is going to ask Graham Courts to work him in the U.S.
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• THIS AND THAT: Adam Scott proved that stats don’t matter on Sunday night. The Australian made 17 birdies, tops in the field, but his four bogeys down the stretch negated four of those birdies . . . Ernie Els 4-under-par 32 was his lowest score since he shot a 31 in the third round of the back nine at the 2007 Open Championship at Carnoustie.