Mark O’Meara followed a birdie at the 17th hole with another from 20 feet at the 18th to win the 62nd Masters Tournament buy one shot from American compatriot Fred Couples and David Duval at Augusta National.
O’Meara, winner of the 1987 Lawrence Batley International and the 1997 Trophée Lancôme, scored a last round of 67 for a nine under par winning total of 279. Duval had set the target with a 67 for 278 and Couples, playing alongside O’Meara, finished with a 70 to share second place.
Darren Clarke, competing in the Masters Tournament for the firs time, followed his outstanding performance in the 1997 Open Championship in which he finished tied second by closing with rounds of 67 and 69 to tie for eighth with Colin Montgomerie.
O’Meara however, captured his first major championship as a professional - he won the 1979 US Amateur Championship - with an impressive performance on a final day of high drama.
America David Toms collected seven birdies to come home in a record-equallying 29 for a 64 to post the clubhouse target with a five under par total as in perfect conditions Couples, Duval and O’Meara duelled for the lead pressed by Paul Azinger and Jim Furyk with Jack Nicklaus, at the age of 58, producing an emotion-packed challenge.
Duval swept into a three shot lead with three holes remaining, but he took three putts at the 16th as Couples recovered from a seven at the long 13th with an eagle at the 15th. Duval missed birdie opportunities at the 17th and 18th as behind him O’Meara holed from five feet at the 17th to tie for the lead coming to the last which he played superbly whereas Couples escaped with a par after visiting two bunkers.
O’Meara, winning his first major at his 59th attempt: “I have achieved more than I ever dreamt I could have in the
Clarke had good reason to feel happy after a superb effort: “My first goal coming here was to make the top 24 to earn an invitation for next year,” he said. “Well I did that, with a bit to spare, and it was very exciting.”
Six European Tour Members enjoyed top 16 finishes with Per-Ulrik Johansson finishing tied 12th for the second successive year. José Maria Olazábal also tied 12th and Ernie Els and Ian Woosnam both tied for 16th place.