| Ernie Els in action in Loch Lomond on Saturday. (AFP)
Loch Lomond: Ernie Els completed an ideal build-up for next week’s British Open defence, clinching his second Scottish Open title by five shots on Sunday.
The world number two, five clear of the field overnight, survived a poor start and a late wobble to fire a closing two-under-par 69 at a sun-drenched Loch Lomond.
Els mixed five birdies with three bogeys to finish at 17-under 267, well ahead of Britain’s Phillip Price and Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke, who tied for second place.
Price, winner of last week’s European Open, and Clarke, who played with Els on the last day, also carded matching 69s.
Irishman Gary Murphy, with a closing 67, secured outright fourth at 10-under 274.
South African Els, who defends his British Open crown at Royal St George’s next week, had been in impressive form all week and was expected to coast to victory on the last day.
But the 2000 Scottish Open champion, who led the tournament from the start with an opening 64, three-putted from long range at the 455-yard second hole to run up a bogey five, and slip back to 14 under.
A relaxed-looking Clarke, tied for second with Welshman Price after the third round, then birdied the par-five third to cut Els’ lead to three.
However, Clarke missed a birdie chance from 10 feet at the short fifth, where the big South African had to get up and down from a greenside bunker to save his par.
But the 33-year-old Els, chasing his fifth title of the year, finally picked up his first shot of the day at the 625-yard sixth, holing a 10-foot birdie putt to return to 15 under with a four-shot cushion.
Another birdie followed for the world number two at the 345-yard ninth, while Clarke, who misjudged his pitch into the green, failed to hole a par-saving putt from 10 feet.
Clarke hit back with a birdie three at the 455-yard 10th, but bogeys at the next two holes effectively ended his bid.
With his other rivals unable to mount a sustained challenge over the second nine, Els could afford to drop shots on both 12 and 16, offsetting those with birdies on 11, where he holed out from 25 feet, and at the par-four 14th, where he drove the green.
In trouble off the tee at the last, Els recovered on to the fairway and hit a superb approach to within two feet of the cup to salvage par.