A year ago at St Andrews he had to stand by and watch Tiger Woods pick up the Claret Jug but at Royal Lytham & St Annes it proved to be David Duval’s day. The 29 year old American carded a final round 67 for a ten under par total of 274 to win the 130th Open Championship and claim his first Major title.
Having started the last round as one of four joint leaders along with Alex Cejka, Bernhard Langer and Ian Woosnam, Duval moved out of the pack thanks to solid and controlled golf to give America its second consecutive winner on the Lancashire links, following Tom Lehman’s victory in 1996.
“I really don’t know how it feels right now,” said Duval. “It’s hard to put into words, it is kind of surreal right now.”
"I’ve had chances in the past but today I made putts and did everything I needed to do. I feel very happy about that and this means so much to me I cannot put into words.
"You get four chances each year to win a Major and you have to have a lot of things go right, plus you have to go out there and actually do it. It’s a silly old game at times and I was just trying to hit it solid - maybe that’s why I feel so good today."
Duval’s success ended hopes of a home victory, which had been strong at the start of the day with 13 of the top 19 places being filled by European Tour players. But the overall performance was still strong, none more so than from Niclas Fasth who claimed outright second place on seven under par 277.
The 29 year old Swede matched Duval’s 67 and continued a recent excellent spell of form on The European Tour which saw him finish tied for second in the Murphy’s Irish Open and tied for 14th in The Scottish Open. Fasth picked up a cheque for £360,000.
The Swede made his move with four birdies in the first seven holes and when he picked up another shot at the 11th to move into the overall lead. But a wayward drive into sand at the 14th cost him a bogey five and his chance of the title as, behind him, Duval continued to prosper.
“You do start becoming aware of the situation at the time and obviously you get a little nervous but it was nothing too bad for me today,” he said. “I really liked it out there – I played well and gave it everything I had.
“There are the best players in the world out there so I knew that a couple of guys behind me were going to make low scores. I thought if I could keep it going and make one more birdie perhaps it might be enough. As it turned out I didn’t but I certainly tried.”
Six players ended their tournament in a share of third place, European Tour members Darren Clarke (70), Ernie Els (69), Miguel Angel Jimenez (70), Bernhard Langer and Ian Woosnam (71), alongside surprise packet American Billy Mayfair (70), contesting only his fourth Open Championship.
Els’s 69 was the best return of the six but although the South African finished strongly with birdies at the 14th and 18th, he was left to rue missed chances at the consecutive par fives on the outward half, the sixth and seventh, where he found sand on both occasions and could do better than a pair of pars.
“It was disappointing because I don’t know how many chances I had for birdies out there,” said Els. “If I had perhaps made fours on the par fives then the show would have been on the road but I kept on battling. I thought the back nine might treat me good for a change but it didn’t quite happen.”
However the biggest controversy of the final day centred around Ian Woosnam. The Welshman thought he had got off to the perfect start when his tee shot at the opening hole finished inches from the pin to yield a birdie two.
But incredibly it was changed to a bogey four moments later on the second tee courtesy of two penalty shots incurred when it was discovered he had 15 clubs in his bag, the offending extra club being an additional driver.
The blunder clearly affected the Ryder Cup player’s early concentration as he dropped shots at the third and fourth holes. But he showed his steely determination with an eagle three at the sixth and a gutsy back nine of 35 which featured birdies at the 11th, 13th and 16th
Woosnam said: “I hit the perfect six iron at the first and tapped in for birdie. We stepped onto the second tee and my caddie (Miles Byrne) said to me,’You’re going to go ballistic Ian – we have two drivers in the bag. At that moment I felt like I’d been kicked in the teeth.
“I had been practicing with two drivers on the range and I think Miles thought somebody else had taken the other one back to the van but they hadn’t – it is the ultimate sin for a caddie and I’m sure he feels as sick as a parrot about it.
“It is the biggest mistake he will ever make that’s for sure but I’m not going to sack him. However he’s got to watch what he’s doing from now on. I suppose I could have checked myself but that’s what you pay a caddie for.
“It is hard enough to start on a level footing with the best players in the world but to give them two shots of a start is very difficult indeed. It did take me a few holes to recover. The eagle at the sixth helped a lot and I was very happy with the way I managed to grind out the rest of the round.”
Further down the final day reckonings, Tiger Woods’s reign as Open champion came to an end with a level par final round 71 for a four round aggregate of one under par 283.
The World Number One threatened one of his famous final day charges when he birdied three holes in a row from the fourth. But any hopes of a sustained challenge evaporated at the 198 yard 12th, the shortest hole on the course, where a trip into deep rough and a greenside bunker cost the American a triple bogey six.
“You are not going to play well every week, everyone who plays this game understands that,” said Woods. “But I went out there and tried my best and that is all I could do – I’m sure I will learn a lot more as I’m able to reflect on my performance this week.”