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PGA Tour Confidential: Els wins British Open after Scott collapses, Tiger fades

Adam Scott, 18th hole, final round
Simon Bruty / SI
Adam Scott missed this putt on 18 that sealed his one-stroke loss to Ernie Els at the British Open.

Every Sunday night, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group conducts an e-mail roundtable. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: O.K., who saw that coming? Seemingly on cruise control, Adam Scott bogeyed his last four holes to hand the British Open to Ernie Els. Most amazing was that Scott, a ball-striking wizard for the better part of 68 holes, bogeyed three of those holes from the middle of the fairway. How do you explain it? Were there tell-tale signs earlier in the round? And what's the one shot over those last four holes that Scott wishes he had over?

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: Missing the short putt on the 16th hole was the giveaway. That got Els to within two, and it seemed as if Scott suddenly realized that the game was on.

John Garrity, contributing writer, Sports Illustrated: I didn't see signs that he was blowing it even as he was blowing it. Scott looked calm and collected, he didn't rush through his pre-shot routines, and his misses weren't THAT bad. (He didn't hit a hospitality tent or anything.) I think the shot he'd want over was the three-footer for par on 16, although I think he said it was the approach on 17 that did him in.

David Dusek, deputy editor, Adam Scott was magnificent for 68 holes, but that missed putt on the 16th is going to haunt him. You can't three putt coming down the stretch and hope to win a major championship. There's no way any of us saw it coming, and it was clear that Ernie Els didn't see it coming either.

Charlie Hanger, executive editor, I think it was the short putt on 16 that wrecked his psyche. Missing one like that shakes your confidence. Hearing the roar after Els made his putt on 18 probably didn't help much either.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I could see it coming when Scott bogeyed three of the first six holes, or with all the tentative putting strokes he made. There was a certain lack of conviction in his play, and it was his undoing on the closing hole. The shot on 17 was the one that really killed him -- he can miss anywhere to the right and have a good shot at saving par but short-side was dead. If he pars 17 he takes the lead to the 18th tee and can play very conservatively from there.

Godich: I also thought the tee shot on 18 was a bit bold. Why a fairway metal there? Why not an iron that takes those bunkers out of play?

Herre: Maybe he thought he needed to make a birdie. If so, big mistake. Tough to play defensively for 17 holes and then suddenly get aggressive.

Garrity: Nick Faldo, who knows about these things, said that he'd have played the iron for exactly that reason. The other option was to be even bolder and blast driver over the bunker, but Scott probably didn't have the stomach for that, even though he'd hit the driver well all week.

Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: His mind was clearly haywire, and Stevie didn't help. The 3-wood at 18 was the only really dumb choice. Driver could carry the bunkers, like Els did, and an iron is short of them.

Shipnuck: That was an atrocious club-pull on 18, and some of that is one Stevie. You simply have to hit an iron short of those bunkers, as Scott had done earlier in the week. He wanted to hit a fade but turned it over instead -- the exact mistake he had just made on 17 and should have been guarding against. The preceding bogeys were physical errors, but 18 was a monumental mental gaffe.

Herre: Yes, hard to figure. Where was Stevie down the stretch? Maybe he was celebrating his 14th major prematurely.

Lipsey: Stevie is still five majors behind Jack and just one behind Woods.

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Right up until he missed that last putt I thought he would win. Foresaw another heartbreaking Els meltdown in the playoff.

Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Scott had the lead for most of the day, but it never felt like he was in control of the tournament. He just kept screwing up less than the other guys. Then he had four holes to hit one clutch shot to end the tournament, and he couldn't do it.

Mick Rouse, contributor: Scott's putting looked shaky all day long, but I agree that 16 was the final giveaway. As for shots he wishes he could have back? How about all of them over the final three holes? A spectacular meltdown considering how well he was playing.

Garrity: I'm with you on all of that Mick, except for the "spectacular" part. I'd call it an "understated meltdown." To be spectacular you have to drive your ball deep into the gorse on 18, as Brandt Snedeker did, or hit your ball into every brand of hazard possible on the closing nine, as Graeme McDowell did. The more I think about it, virtually every contender flamed out more spectacularly than Adam did -- but we were no longer paying attention.

Lipsey: Woods was certainly dramatic flaming out, no? That bunker dance was hilarious.

Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Didn't see any tell-tale signs early in the round. Scott looked so utterly in control that we were halfway done with our headline-writing for him here at (much like the claret jug inscriber). It's hard to say what was going on in his head, but that little putt for par on 16 that lipped out had to have elevated his pulse for the rest of the afternoon. Anyone would struggle to recover from that one.

Godich: Equally bad was the birdie putt on 16. That was either an atrocious yank or a horrible read or a combination of both. No excuse to leave yourself that long of a par attempt.

Hanger: Good point, Mark. That first one on 16 was a doozy. Clearly the nerves were a factor, as were questionable decisions, and we've seen this story before. But also, I think the percentages caught up to him. You can be rock-solid and seem bulletproof for stretches, but eventually everyone hits a rough patch. It's a choke, but also a badly timed market correction. Poor guy. Every golfer has to feel Scott's pain right about now.

Lipsey: Scott earned about $850,000. He's not hurting too bad.

Godich: Adam Scott has won more than $27 million on the PGA Tour alone. This is one time he couldn't care less about the money.

Shipnuck: Right. Scott has already made more money than he can ever spend, no matter how high-maintenance his glamorous girlfriends may be. He wanted the trophy. Needed it, really.

Dusek: When he goes to sleep tonight, I guarantee you Scott won't be thinking about the money. He will be thinking about losing a major championship.

Lipsey: We often say they don't care about the money, but then we hear about these guys touring the globe to pick up appearance fees. Sure, they crave the trophies, but I think the money matters too.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: That ending was just damn hard to watch. Adam Scott is such a nice guy, and I never thought he'd blow it until he hit into the gunch on 17. He later called it the one swing he'd want back.

Shipnuck: I got Stevie alone in the parking lot for a moment, and he was utterly devastated. He couldn't get a word out. He knows what this meant to Scott's career, and to his own.

Lipsey: Imagine trying to play good golf while you feel like you're on a luge going down the ice sheet but falling off the sled. That must've been what Scott felt like. Choking with that mindset is easy to understand.

Garrity: Well said. But here's the thing about choking -- you still hit both good and bad shots. Scott hit a bunch of clutch tee shots down the stretch while his pursuers were driving it into the hay or over the spectators' heads. (That would be you, Tiger.) And Ernie had a bit of luck on 16 when his drive settled on the trampled-down grass at the foot of a tent, leaving him a chip to the green. That drive could have found a bunker or the deep rough, and right now we'd be talking about how Ernie handled the playoff.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Were you surprised to see Scott collapse over the final holes? What shot do you think was the turning point?

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