1-50 runaway leader Scott hands Open to Els
ADAM SCOTT suffered one of the most remarkable meltdowns in Open history yesterday, leading by four shots with four holes to play before capitulating over the closing stretch at Royal Lytham.
More than £1m was traded on Scott on Betfair at 1.05 (1-20) or shorter, with £25,924 matched at 1.02 (1-50), while the eventual victor, Ernie Els, was backed at a high of 470 on the exchange when it looked as if he faced an impossible mission to reel in the leader.
Scott's incredible wobble started with a bogey on the 15th hole, then he missed a tiddler for par on the 16th to give the chasing pack hope.
At that point, Els was rolling in a birdie putt at the 18th to get in the clubhouse at seven under par, leaving Scott needing to par the final two holes for outright victory or play them in one over to get into a play-off.
The wheels well and truly came off Scott's bus with an errant approach to the 17th, where he found sand and made bogey, so he arrived at the 18th tee needing a par just to force extra holes.
A loose drive meant the Adelaide man could only splash out from a fairway bunker. That left the bewildered 32-year-old needing to get up and down with a wedge, but he failed to hole his par putt from seven feet, closed with four consecutive bogeys, and had blown a gilt-edged chance of Open glory.
Scott has always looked a potential Major champion since he started hoovering up titles on both sides of the Atlantic at the start of the millennium, but serious questions are now going to be asked about the sweet-swinging Australian's mettle on the biggest stages after this meek surrender. The forecast strong winds failed to materialise, so the final four holes were notplaying any tougher than they had over the previous three days. He was a total of two under par for those four holes over Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Scott took a four-shot lead into the final round and was 8-11 to lift the Claret Jug, but Els played the back nine in four under par to secure his second Open title and his fourth Major crown.
The pair were similar prices at the start of the week, but the Aussie was the subject of much greater support than the South African and relieved bet365 spokesman Steve Freeth said: "We saw bundles of ante-post money for Scott, and he was also very popular in-running, so we had a lucky escape."
Hills make Els 25-1 to retain his Open crown next year and their spokesman Rupert Adams said: "In years gone by, Ernie would probably have cost us a million, but many thought his golden years were over and it was a decent result."
BetVictor spokesman Charlie McCann added to the general feeling of delight in the bookmaking community. He said: "With our Lost Boys promotion, returning stakes if Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter or Sergio Garcia won, we enjoyed bumper turnover and the winner was relatively unbacked. Once again Donald and Westwood have fallen short and you have to wonder how long punters will keep faith with them."
Tiger Woods may also find himself being shunned by the betting community in future after blowing a golden chance. Woods, 10-1 market leader on Open eve and 11-2 with 18 holes to play, had got to within four after five holes but then made some terrible errors with his course-management, notably when failing to get out of a greenside bunker at the sixth and taking a triple-bogey, his first in a Major since the 2003 Open at Royal St George's.
Tiger chipped in from the back of the par-five seventh for a birdie, then further birdies at the tenth and 12th saw him grind his way back into contention, but abysmal sliced tee shots at the 13th and 14th ended his hopes. Bet365 go evens (from 10-11) that he breaks Jack Nicklaus's Major wins record (by adding another five to his 14), while he is 8-11 to fail.
Graeme McDowell was in the last pairing, but his chances ended with a spectacular hook at the 11th, leading to a lost ball.