Within minutes of Ernie Els winning the 2012 Open Championship, most Australian golf fans were left asking, what just happened? Some media described it using the ‘c’ word.
— Rod Morri (@TalkinGolfRadio) July 25, 2012
— John Huggan (@johnhuggan) July 25, 2012
Australia’s cursed history at major golf championship’s meant that many media outlets compared Adam Scott’s failure in the same sentence alongside the disasters of Greg Norman and the infamous meltdown of Jean van de Velde. Professional golfers and the golf media tend to be in agreement that it wasn’t what the media like to sensationally term a ‘choke’. But if it wasn’t, what was it? And does it really matter what we call it?
To answer the first question, it pays to remember that unlike Norman’s 1996 US Masters fiasco, the only glimpses that Scott was going to lose began on the 15th hole on the final day where he still held a four-shot lead. Norman’s final round six-shot lead however had completely evaporated at the 11th hole. His fate was all but sealed when he put his tee shot into Rae’s Creek at the the famous par-3 12th hole at Augusta National moments after.
Jean Van de Velde played out his catastrophe on the final hole of the 1999 Open Championship at Carnoustie. Van de Velde used up his three-shot lead with a series of poor shots and atrocious decision making that was as close to a golfing tragedy as one could write.
Of the three, Van de Velde’s is still the worst, and it may be tempting to place Scott’s final four-hole stumble somewhere between the two. But Scott still didn’t play that many bad shots. It was merely a small tightening of the muscles, a slightly stronger right hand that sent a couple of approaches and putts left. In addition, Els played like the champion he is which probably exacerbated Scott’s downfall.
The sensationalist newspaper headlines referred to it immediately as a ‘choke’ (I’ve yet to see a proper definition when it is applied to the sporting arena) which seems to imply a lack of ticker in the heat of the moment. It wasn’t that, but it was a minor meltdown or more poignantly, a major mishap at best.
The best description of Scott’s major mishap came from John Huggan in the above Twitter exchange; “an inexorable descent from marvellous thru mediocre that ended in madness”, which seems to place it somewhere between Norman and Van de Velde’s carnage.
The best answer to the question of whether it matters if Scott’s failure is best described as a choke or a ‘descent from marvellous to madness’, came from Mike Clayton; “It was what it was – the PGA will be fascinating.”
It was what it was. Let’s move on. The US PGA Championship starts in two weeks.