Els takes British Open crown

823383.png

Els takes British Open crown

By Doug Ferguson
AP Golf Writer
LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England -- Ernie Els kept feeling that something special could happen at the British Open, and it did. But only after a collapse by Adam Scott that no one imagined. Four shots ahead with four holes to play -- after eight straight holes with nothing worse than par -- Scott bogeyed them all and had to fight back tears on the 18th green Sunday as the magnitude of his meltdown began to sink in. Els, who started the final round six shots behind, finished off a flawless back nine with a 15-foot birdie putt for a 2-under 68 that looked as if it would do little more than lock up another runner-up finish at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. Instead, he wound up with his second British Open -- the other one was 10 years ago at Muirfield -- and fourth major championship at a stage in his career when it seemed as though his best golf was behind him. The celebration was muted, unlike his other three majors. "I'm a little numb at the moment," said Els, who was on the practice green behind the clubhouse when he won. "First of all, I feel for Adam Scott. He's a great friend of mind. Obviously, we both wanted to win very badly. But you know, that's the nature of the beast. That's why we're out here. You win, you lose. "It was my time for some reason." The wind finally arrived off the Irish Sea and ushered in pure chaos -- a mental blunder by Tiger Woods that led to triple bogey on the sixth hole, a lost ball by Brandt Snedeker that took him out of contention and a topped shot that made former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell look like an amateur. Nothing was more stunning that what happened to Scott. He failed to get up-and-down from a bunker on the 15th. With a wedge in his hand in the 16th fairway, he went 30 feet long and missed a 3-foot par putt. From the fairway on the 17th, he pulled his approach into thick grass left of the green. And on the final hole, he hit 3-wood near the face of a pot bunker. Scott still had a chance to force extra holes with a strong shot into 7 feet on the 18th for par. The putt stayed left the entire way. His chin buckled, and it looked as if he might start crying on the green. He composed himself and mouthed one word: "Wow." "I had it in my hands with four to go," Scott said. "I managed to hit a poor shot on each of the closing four holes. Look, I played so beautifully for most of the week. I shouldn't let this bring me down." Even so, it added another chapter to Australian heartbreak, most of that belonging to his idol, Greg Norman.

Quick Links

T.J. Oshie set to return to Caps' lineup Wednesday night

T.J. Oshie set to return to Caps' lineup Wednesday night

T.J. Oshie will return to the Capitals’ lineup Wednesday night against the Bruins, Coach Barry Trotz confirmed.

The top line right missed the past seven games with a shoulder injury that he suffered Nov. 18.

Despite the nearly three-week absence, Oshie still ranks third on the Caps in goals with eight and is fourth in points with 12. 

RELATED: 3 BOLD PREDICTIONS: TOUGH RASK AT HAND

Based on the morning skate, Oshie will skate alongside center Nicklas Backstrom and left wing Marcus Johansson against Tuukka Rask and the surging Bruins. The 29-year-old will also reclaim his usual spot in the middle of the diamond on the first team power play.

Trotz said Oshie, who was sidelined 19 days, is returning “a little bit” earlier than expected.

“I depends on the individual,” Trotz said. “It depends on the healing process. It depends on how their body can handle the strain of being hurt and how it repairs itself."

Trotz added:  “Right now all indications are that Osh is ready to go. I have to trust our trainers and doctors and, more important, I have to trust the player. And the player feels like he’s ready to go.”

On Tuesday, Oshie was a full participant in practice for the first time since getting hurt. He went through contact drills and reported no aftereffects. He was full-go again Wednesday morning and afterward said he felt “great.”

The Capitals went 3-3-1 and averaged 2.14 goals per game while Oshie was sidelined.

MORE CAPITALS: OVECHKIN TRAILS CROSBY AFTER FIRST WEEK OF ALL-STAR VOTING

Quick Links

3 bold predictions: Tough Rask at hand

3 bold predictions: Tough Rask at hand

The Capitals will try to build on Monday's win as they host the Boston Bruins on Wednesday (NBCSN 8 p.m.). Here are three bold predictions for the game.

1. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky and Jakub Vrana will all be held without a point

Kuznetsov and Burakovsky are trying to break out of offensive slumps while Vrana is trying to prove he belongs in the NHL. Points may be hard to come by on Wednesday, however, considering Tuukka Rask will be in net. By now, if you’re even a casual hockey fan you’re aware of what goalie Carey Price is doing in Montreal. His play this season is stealing the headlines away from Rask who has been equally as impressive registering the same number of wins (14) and a lower GAA (1.68) to go with a phenomenal .939 save percentage. This is not the goalie you want to face when dealing with an offensive slump.

RELATED: Ovechkin trails Crosby after first week of All-Star voting

2. Dmitry Orlov and John Carlson will each record a point

An Orlov-Carlson pairing worked better than expected to start the season, but the results were short-lived. That pair had clearly run its course as it became clear the players were both undercutting each other offensively. Barry Trotz shuffled the defense at the end of Monday’s game and those new pairs will stick for Wednesday as John Carlson will reunite with long-time partner Karl Alzner and Orlov will move up to play with Matt Niskanen. Pairing each player with a stay-at-home partner will pay immediate dividends offensively.

3. Washington’s top line will account for two goals

T.J. Oshie returns Wednesday and moves up to the top line skating alongside Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson. Oshie was arguably the team MVP before an upper-body injury took him out of the lineup. His return with the team’s two hottest players will prove difficult to defend, especially with Zdeno Chara likely to matchup with Alex Ovechkin. Add in the fact that Rask is a surprising 1-8-4 in his career against Washington and that top line may find some success Wednesday.

MORE CAPITALS: Daily Quote: 'I’m creating, I’m skating'