Adam Scott revived memories of some of Greg Norman’s horror collapses in majors when he tossed away the British Open and let South African Ernie Els claim his second claret jug, 10 years after his first win.
Scott was set to stroll to victory when he held a four-shot lead with just four holes to play at Royal Lytham and St Annes.
But a dramatic surrender saw the Queenslander stumble home with a run of four consecutive bogeys as Els came roaring to the finish line with three birdies.
It was the worst collapse at the Open since Frenchman Jean Van de Velde took a triple bogey on the final hole at Carnoustie and lost in a play-off.
Scott’s troubles began when he failed to get up and down from a bunker on the 15th. He then hit his approach shot long at the next hole and missed a one metre par putt.
At the 17th he pulled his approach into thick grass and on the last hole a three wood buried itself in a pot bunker.
Els’ final-round two-under-par 68 gave him a second Open triumph with a 72-hole total of seven-under 273 while Scott’s five-over 75 was his worst final round of the year and left him in second place at six-under 274.
The 32-year-old had opened the tournament with a course record-equalling 64 and with following rounds of 67 and 68, he had a 54-hole total just one shot short of the lowest in Open history.
Fresh from the disaster, Scott made a brave attempt to maintain his composure.
"I played so beautifully for most of the week. I certainly shouldn’t let this bring me down," the 32-year-old said.
"The 16th hole hurt, missing that short putt. But, surprisingly, I was still feeling incredibly calm for most of the round and I still feel calm.
"I hit a great shot into the last and felt like I could have rolled that in and get a few extra holes, but it wasn’t to be.
"That’s golf, isn’t it?"
Els said he sympathised with Scott’s plight but advised him: "Don’t beat yourself up over this."
"I feel for Adam Scott. He’s a great friend of mine," Els said.
"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."
Scott’s failure leaves Geoff Ogilvy as the last Australian to have won a major, the US Open in 2006.
Ogilvy has had a poor Open history but on Sunday came storming home with a three-under 67 to finish in a 10-way tie for ninth at even par.
Victorians Marcus Fraser and Marc Leishman missed the cut by just one shot, Ashley Hall was three shots off the cut-off and Robert Allenby was four shots shy.
West Australian Greg Chalmers (76) was joint 45th at six over, Aaron Baddeley (74) equal 69th at 10 over after making the Open cut for the first time in seven attempts and Brendan Jones (76) tied for 72nd.
Hall shot rounds of 71 and 75 but his experience has just made him more enthusiastic for a return attempt.
"All I have to do is think about what I did so good on the back nine (on the first day) and try to forget the rest," Hall said. "I’ll try and focus on what I was doing, and why, because I’ll want some good results for the rest of the year."