The Open Championship
The Open Championship
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The Open - Day 4
Ernie Els wins Open in playoff
Montgomerie pulls out of tournaments after criticism

Tiger Woods finishes in style with 65

Dramatic finish for Gary Evans
Levet, Appleby & Elkington the nearly men
Happy ending for Ernie Els
Pressure tells on Maruyama

Ernie Els wins Open in playoff

Ernie Els clinched the third major title of his career Sunday, edging out Australia's Steve Elkington and Stuart Appleby, and Frenchman Thomas Levet in a four-way playoff for the 2002 British Open.

The 32-year-old South African, who completed the 72 holes of regulation play with a one-under-par 70, had to survive a roller-coaster ride of emotion before sealing victory with a five-foot putt for par at the fifth extra hole.

The twice U.S. Open champion became only the third South African to win the third of the year's four major championships.

Bobby Locke won the Open four times between 1949 and 1957, while Gary Player -- one of just three men to clinch the title in three different decades -- triumphed in 1959, 1968 and 1974.

Appleby and Elkington both exited the playoff after the first four holes following bogeys at the 18th, and Els and Levet then had to replay the 18th in sudden-death.

Levet found a fairway bunker off the tee and Els ended up in a greenside bunker with his second, but the South African was able to save par while the Frenchman had to settle for a bogey-five.

All four players had finished regulation play tied at six-under-par 278, Appleby shooting a 65, and Elkington and Levet matching 66s.

Els, who led the field by two after Saturday's difficult third round, seemed to have the a third major title firmly in his grasp when he moved three strokes clear with six holes to play.

But the world number three bogeyed the 14th, double-bogeyed the short 16th and had to birdie the par-five 17th to join the playoff -- the third in the last five British Opens.

Els, whose U.S. Open victories came at Oakmont in 1994 and at Congressional in 1997, gathered five birdies in all -- along with a double-bogey and two bogeys -- on a calm and sunny day.

Appleby birdied six of the last 10 holes and Elkington, who only just made the second-round cut after opening scores of 71 and 73, picked up five birdies.

Levet, aiming to become the first Frenchman to win the Open title since Arnaud Massy in 1907, booked his place in the playoff by holing a 35-foot putt from just off the green to eagle the par-five 17th.

England's Gary Evans, who was outright leader at six under earlier in the day, closed with a drama-filled 65 to finish tied for fifth at five-under 278 with Ireland's Padraig Harrington (67) and Japan's Shigeki Mauyama (68).

Els, who struggled for accuracy off the tee for much of the final round, had to survive several testing moments as the last-day leaderboard fluctuated with regularity.

Having teed off one stroke behind Evans -- who was six under at that point after 14 holes -- he bogeyed the par-four first after pulling his tee shot left into a bunker from where he could only splash out on to the fairway.

His approach into the green left him with a par-saving putt from 20 feet, which he missed, but he regrouped with a par at the next and then birdied the 378-yard third hole after sinking a 20-foot putt.

The South African was frustrated after missing a birdie-putt from just three feet at the par-five fifth but then moved one stroke in front when he sank a birdie-putt from four feet at the ninth.

He birdied the par-four 10th after holing a putt from 12 feet and then hit a superb nine-iron approach to 10 feet at the 381-yard 12th to forge three clear of the field.

Els then seemed to set to drop a shot at the par-three 13th when his six-iron off the tee found the first of two pot bunkers guarding the left of the green.

But from a testing lie close to the bunker's face, the smooth-swinging South African nearly holed out after producing a brilliant sand save for his par.

He dropped a shot at the 14th after finding a fairway bunker and his lead was cut to just one with Appleby, Elkington Levet all safely in the clubhouse.

But Els double-bogeyed the par-three 16th after pulling a seven iron to the left of the green, over-running his chip back and finally two-putting.

Having been three ahead with six to play, Els was now one shot behind, but he birdied the 546-yard 17th and parred the last.

Earlier, Tiger Woods finished his British Open campaign in style with a six-under-par 65.

Chasing his third successive major title of the year, he made the most of the benign conditions for an even-par aggregate of 284.

Having begun the day 11 shots off the pace following his worst ever professional round of 81 in Saturday's dreadful weather, the American fired an eagle and five birdies to vault up the leaderboard.

"I have played well all week and my goal today was to get to even par," he said. "I think that would have been a very successful tournament and I am very pleased that I have now done that."


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