LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England -- Ernie Els, coming off his worst season and seemingly destined to fall short again at Royal Lytham, instead claimed his second British Open title when Adam Scott stunningly bogeyed his final four holes Sunday.
"I'm a little numb at the moment," Els said minutes after Scott's 10-foot par putt at the 18th hole skirted the cup. "First of all, I feel for Adam. He's a great friend of mine.
"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 Sunday.
"I'm pretty disappointed," said Scott, who was seeking his first major title. "I had it in my hands with four to go and proceeded to hit a poor shot on each of the last four. That's what happens on a course like this."
Four birdies on the back nine gave Els a 2-under 68, capping it with a 20-foot putt at No. 18 that seemingly bee-lined into the hole. That moved him within a shot of the faltering Scott, who moments earlier had blown a short par putt at No. 16 to fall to 8 under.
The drama for the claret jug, it turned out, was only beginning.
Scott -- who led by four shots after a birdie at No. 14 -- pushed his approach shot at the par-4 17th into lush rough right of the green, then caught a flyer with his chip. The ball sailed over the flagstick, stopping 12 feet
The Aussie stroked the putt wide, dropping him into a tie with Els. Grabbing a 3-wood on the 18th tee, Scott watched helplessly as his drive skipped into one of the 17 bunkers that flank the fairway and green.
Left with no choice but to chip out sideways, Scott gave himself a chance with a splendid wedge that stopped in the middle of the green. Alas, his putt appeared ready to veer toward the hole but then thought twice.
"Look, I played so beautifully for most of the week. I shouldn't let this bring me down," Scott said. "Next time ... I'm sure there will be a next time ... I can do a better job of it."
Els was the only man among Sunday's final seven pairings to break par for his round, finishing at 7-under 273. Scott, who led by four shots to start the day, closed with a 5-over 75 that included seven bogeys for a 274.
Sunday's victory came 10 years and one day after Els' other Open title, when he won a four-man, four-hole playoff at Muirfield. He preceded that with U.S. Open titles in 1994 and 1997.
A year ago, though, he wondered whether he'd ever be in position to win another major. He had just one top-10 finish worldwide in 2011, earning less than $1 million on the PGA Tour for the first time in his career.
"I'd been in such a negative mode for a while," Els said.
But there's something about Royal Lytham that brings out the best in Els. In his two previous Opens on the Lancashire links, he'd finished runner-up to Tom Lehman in 1996 and tied for third in 2001 behind David Duval.
"I just thought, 'I'll probably be disappointed again,' " Els said. "You're not really hoping the guy is going to make a mistake, but you're hoping you don't have to go a playoff, you can win outright."
Tiger Woods was four shots back in a tie for third, carding a 73 that included an adventurous triple bogey at No. 6. A bunker shot caromed back and almost hit him, and his eventual escape came from a sitting position on the bank above.
"The game plan was to fire it into the bank, have it ricochet to the right and then have an angle to come back at it," he said. "Unfortunately, it ricocheted to the left and almost hit me.
"Overall I'm pleased with the way I played. Unfortunately, just a couple here and there ended up costing me some momentum -- especially today at (No.) 6."
Woods is stuck at 14 major titles, four behind Jack Nicklaus' record. He hasn't won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.
"We've all been in positions to win tournaments and sometimes people go ahead and win them and take them away from you," Woods said. "Other times we make mistakes. And that's just the way it goes."
Brandt Snedeker also was at 3 under after a 74, dropping from contention after double bogeys at Nos. 7 and 8.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
(Fourth round and overall score)
Ernie Els 68 -7
Adam Scott 75 -6
Tiger Woods 73 -3
Luke Donald 69 -2
Graeme McDowell 75 -2
Bubba Watson 74 +2
Rory McIlroy 73 +8