America's Tom Watson revived memories of his famous Duel in the Sun when he closed with a six under par 64 and then defeated England's Carl Mason on the second hole of a sudden-death play-off at the Senior British Open, presented by MasterCard, at the Westin Tunberry Resort in Ayrshire, Scotland.
Fifty three year old Watson, who defeated Jack Nicklaus during that Duel at the 1977 Open at Turnberry, seemed destined to have to settle for second place when he bogeyed the 72nd hole to finish on 17 under par 263. But, against the odds, he got a second chance when Mason took six on the same hole and he grasped it with both hands. Both men went on to card regulation par fours on the first extra hole before Watson won the £157,800 first prize with another par four on the second extra hole.
Earlier, the two main protagonists fought out a titantic tussle in which both gained the initiative at one time or another. On the 415 yard par four 10th, for example, Watson holed a 112-yard sand wedge for an eagle two to tie his English rival. Moments later, however, Mason, having heard the cheers from the game in front, calmly regained the lead with a 12-foot birdie putt on the hole behind.
Watson's win means that he has now won two Senior Majors to add to the five Opens, two Masters and one US Open he won in the 1970s and 1980s. It also means that he has now won five Champions Tour titles, as well as 39 on the US PGA Tour.
"I consider it a great honour to win this Championship, particularly at Turnberry where Jack and I fought out that great battle all that time ago.
"To be honest, I thought I had lost it. Carl played so great all week, I thought he would finish the job. But he didn't. That's golf, I suppose. It has happened to us all at one time or another."
Watson went on to devote the victory to his long-time caddie, Bruce Edwards, who is suffering from the regenerative wasting desease, ALS, and was unable to make the trip to Scotland.
"This victory is as much for him as me," said Watson. "He told me to come over and win the Senior British Open and I said 'OK, I'll do it for you, pal.'"
Mason's consolation was a second place cheque for £105,800 that takes his earnings from three Seniors Tour starts to £142,062. That saw him jump to first place on the European Seniors Tour Order of Merit but could not alleviate the disappointment he felt at having let the most prestigious prize in Seniors golf slip from his grasp.
"I don't know what to say. I'm gutted," he said. "I'm proud of the way I played but to get that close and then miss out is extremely disappointing, to say least.
"Tonight, I think I will do what I do most nights, just a little bit more," he added with a rueful smile.
America's Bruce Summerhays carded a final round 65 to finish his first tournament on a links golf course in third place on sixteen under par 264. The 59 year-old from Utah was two shots ahead of Tom Kite, six in front of DA Weibring and seven in front of Australia's Brian Jones and America's Mark McCumber.
Mason and Jones were joined in the top ten by England's Denis Durnian who closed with a fine two under par 68 to share eighth place with David Eger. Ireland's Des Smyth moved up to 13th place after a scintillating 66 and England's Bob Cameron was 14th after a closing 71 in the company of Jack Nicklaus and Fuzzy Zoeller.
A total of 13 European Seniors Tour members finished within the top 30 in the stellar field. Bob Charles, Terry Gale, David Good, Bill Longmuir and Russell Weir all shared 20th place on three under par 277 while John Chillas and Russell Weir came 25th one shot further back. Scotland's Martin Gray also made it in to the top 30 in 27th place on one under par 71.
America's Jim Colbert won the £3,000 Hardys Wines Super Seniors prize awarded to the leading competitor aged 60 and over despite stumbling to a closing three over par 73. Colbert dropped into a share of tenth place but still finished two shots clear of Jack Nicklaus.
Ireland's Arthur Pierse was crowned as the leading amateur for the third year in succession when he closed with a four over par 74 to finish in a share of 62nd place on six over par 286.
The 52 year-old car dealer from Tipperary raced to the turn in two under par but carded three bogeys and a triple bogey over the closing nine holes.
"It's a shame to finish the way I did but it's still great to win the Gold Medal again," said the former Walker Cup player.