Last Updated: 22/07/12 8:28pm
Ernie Els won his second Open Championship by a shot after Adam Scott made bogey at the last four holes at Royal Lytham.
Ernie Els -7 Adam Scott -6 Brandt Snedeker -3 Tiger Woods -3 Luke Donald -2 Graeme McDowell -2 Thomas Aiken -1 Nicolas Colsaerts -1 Geoff Ogilvy Level Miguel Angel Jimenez Level
Els came home in four-under 32, rolling in a 12-foot birdie putt at the last to card a closing 68.
Scott was four shots clear of the field after 14 holes - the same margin he enjoyed overnight - but suddenly lost his way.
He had an eight-foot par putt at 18 to earn a play-off but trailed the putt out to the left.
Scott had looked in firm control of his emotions and his golf ball as he stood on the 15th tee with a four-shot lead, but he imploded after Els piled on the pressure with a stunning back-nine.
And that proved enough for the South African to be crowned champion golfer of the year for the first time since 2002, when Scott tugged his final tee shot into a deep fairway bunker and was unable to salvage par.
He did well to give himself a chance to force a play-off after knocking his third to eight feet, but he mis-read the putt to return a 75 and leave Els celebrating a fourth major title at the age of 42.
Scott, four ahead overnight, atoned for an opening bogey with a birdie at the second before he dropped further shots at three and six to slip to nine under.
However, he reeled off seven straight pars and appeared to have sealed his first major title when he rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt at 14, but he had reckoned without Els producing possibly the best nine holes of his career.
There was little indication of the drama to come when Els made his second bogey of the day to turn in 36, but as the challenges of Tiger Woods and Graeme McDowell faltered, the 2002 champion carded three birdies in a blistering five-hole burst.
He still trailed by two coming up the 18th, but he followed a perfect drive with a controlled wedge to 12 feet and confidently rapped the putt into the middle of the cup before watching the travails of Scott from the safety of the practice green.
The challenge of Woods effectively ended at the sixth, where he took two swipes to escape a greenside bunker and then three-putted to run up and ugly triple-bogey seven.
Birdies at 10 and 12 briefly got him back into the hunt, but Woods bogeyed the next three and a closing birdie was scant consolation as he posted a 73 to finish four behind Els.
McDowell had started the day with high hopes of retaining the Claret Jug for Northern Ireland, but he also struggled in the first blustery conditions of the week.
The 2010 US Open champion slipped out of contention with three straight bogeys around the turn, a duck-hook from the middle of the 11th fairway scattering the galleries and resulting in a lost ball.
McDowell eventually limped in with a 75 to finish on two under alongside world No.1 Luke Donald, who closed with a solid three-birdie 69 to earn only his second top-10 finish at the Open.
Halfway leader Brandt Snedeker double-bogeyed both the seventh and eighth but managed to salvage a 74 to finish tied for third with playing-partner Woods.
And Nicolas Colsaerts boosted his Ryder Cup hopes as a sparkling 65, his second of the week, propelled him into a tie for seventh on one under.
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