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The Open Championship 1998 Home Page

Final Round - O'Meara overcomes Watts in playoff

Southport, Lancashire, 19th July 1998 - Mark O'Meara became the first player to win the Masters and Open Championship titles in the same year since 1990 when he beat fellow American Brian Watts by two shots in a four-hole playoff at the Open Championship on Sunday.

The two had finished level on even par 280 after a spine-tingling final round but 41-year-old O'Meara, whose fourth round was a two-under-par 68, had the stronger nerve and the greater experience to prevail in the playoff over the last four holes of Royal Birkdale.

Watts, a 32-year-old who plays mainly on the Japanese Tour, had never been so close to winning a major title and though he kept his composure admirably under pressure to card a final round of 70, he finally succumbed in the playoff.

He missed a four-foot putt on the first playoff hole, the 15th, and after both parred the 16th and 17th, Watts, needing a birdie to have a chance of force sudden death, bunkered his approach.

He blasted out 35 feet past the hole and took two putts to get down, leaving O'Meara three putts to win from the back fringe of the green.

O'Meara rolled the first one three feet past and holed the return for a two-shot victory worth 300,000 pounds ($493,000).

Nick Faldo achieved the same Masters-British Open double in 1990.

"This is an incredible feeling -- I love this golf championship so much," O'Meara said. "It is a world championship played on great golf courses and to come home on top is a dream."

"The weather was different every day and that is what links golf is all about, why this championship is so special," he added.

"In the playoff I just tried to hit the ball on the fairway. I felt very much in control. In fact I'm amazed how relaxed I actually was."

The final round was packed with drama involving not just the leading duo but also American Jim Furyk, Sweden's Jesper Parnevik, English amateur Justin Rose and, inevitably, Tiger Woods, who made a desperate charge with three birdies on he last four holes but fell one shot short of reaching the playoff.

Woods birdied the long 15th, chipped in from 30 feet at the 17th and putted in from 30 feet at the last for a 66 to finish one over par.

Furyk and Parnevik only fell away near the end and shared fourth place on two over with 17-year-old Rose, who chipped in spectacularly at the last, and fast-finishing Scot Raymond Russell, who like Woods shot 66.

There was little in it through the front nine, Watts keeping his composure to match the level par 34 of his pursuers, O'Meara, Furyk and Parnevik, to stay two ahead.

But a bogey at the short 12th where he missed the green hurt Watts and O'Meara took over the lead with his second successive birdie at that hole from 25 feet away.

O'Meara had two more birdies and two bogeys over the next four holes but they were level playing the 17th, which both birdied.

O'Meara's par at the last was routine but Watts, who has won 11 tournaments in Japan over the past five years, struck his approach into an awkward lie in a greenside bunker.

But he blasted out superbly, got a fortuitous bounce that carried the ball to within 18 inches and made the putt to force the playoff.

Of the other big names, U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen of the United States finished off with a 70 for 291, the damage to his chances having been done by a third round 80. Zimbabwe's Nick Price, the 1994 champion who suffered a third round 82, shot 72 for 292, 12 over.

South African Ernie Els, the 1994 and 1997 U.S. Open champion, was on the same score, also after a 72.

Titleholder Justin Leonard of the United States salvaged his pride after slumping to an 82 on Saturday by breaking par with a 69.

British hopeful Lee Westwood ended a miserable weekend with a second successive 78 for a total of 298, 18 over par.

Completed Final Round Scores