American Bruce Vaughan staged a remarkable comeback to beat compatriot John Cook in a sudden death play-off to win The 2008 Senior Open Championship on a thrilling final day at Royal Troon.
Vaughan and Cook both finished the Championship on a six under par total of 278 but it was Vaughan who held his nerve on the first extra hole to land the biggest pay cheque of his career - €199,000 (US$315,600) .
Both Bernhard Langer and Greg Norman had looked poised to mount a serious challenge, especially when Norman birdied five of the first seven holes, but both faltered late on to finish fourth and tied fifth respectively.
Instead it was unheralded Vaughan and Cook, playing in the final pairing, who were left to battle it out in an enthralling finale.
Cook had opened up a three shot lead with a birdie on The Postage Stamp eighth hole but a double bogey on the 11th and a bogey on the 12th saw that cushion eroded, as memories of his painful defeat to Nick Faldo at The 1992 Open Championship came flooding back.
When Vaughan birdied the 16th and Cook missed his par putt on the last, the 22nd Senior Open Championship went into a sudden death play-off, where Vaughan rolled in a 15ft putt to clinch the title his first Senior Major win and first tournament win.
For the 51 year old, who carded a final round one under par 70, the emotional victory ended a difficult two years which have included six operations on his troublesome left knee and two partial replacements.
His victory was also all the sweeter for the fact he succeeds another man from Kansas – three-time winner Tom Watson – as the Champion and Vaughan admitted it was special to become a Major winner himself and follow in the footsteps of the player regarded as a legend in his home state.
He said: “The money's great, because I've had problems with my knee and haven't been able to play much for a long time. You know, I just kind of was biding my time waiting to get out here because I thought I could play out here.
“Until you win, you're just another player. To me, it's all about winning and stuff. The money's great, but you know, you only get a few of these.
“It is a special win with the players in the field. I mean, look how good Greg played last week. I'm sure it was a little bit of a letdown and stuff for him but he still hung in there and still played good here. Tom Watson as well - you know Tom is legend where I'm from.
“In the playoff, I wasn't nervous. I hit three of best shots of the week right there on that hole.”
Despite being three strokes behind and seemlingly beaten at one point, Vaughan said he never lost belief that he could get his hands on the trophy.
He said: You've got to believe you can. You never give up, or I don't ever give up, anyway. I don't care how many you're back. You know, out here, one bad swing you can make double in a heartbeat out here. Unfortunately that happened there on 11 for John.
“I hit three of the best shots I hit in the tournament on 18. I hit a good drive, a good little 5 iron in there, and just centre cut that putt on 18.
“Now the tide's turned. He's got to make is putt to extend the playoff. You know, there was a change of events there, because he was way up but I just hung in there.”
For Cook the agonising play-off defeat will no doubt recall his defeat to Faldo at The Open Championship at Muirfield 16 years ago when he lost a two stroke lead with two holes to play.
He said: “It never entered my mind but I’m sure it will now. It’s disappointing that i got done on the back nine but Bruce won it. Bruce played his heart out. He battled yesterday and battled through the first nine today.”
Argentine Eduardo Romero once again missed out after missing an eight foot par putt on the last hole to drop to five under par and out of the play-off, having to settle for third place.
Norman had reproduced something akin to the form that saw him almost win The Open Championship a week ago but after five early birdies he dropped a shot on the eighth hole. He reclaimed that shot on the 14th and still looked in contention until a double bogey five on the 17th put pay to his hopes of his first Senior Major Championship victory as he finshed on two under par for the Championship, the same as Watson.
He said: “I played very well today. I actually felt like I played better today than I did yesterday and it seemed like the last three days it's slowly improved. I hit a lot of great iron shots, even the one into 17 I hit very well. The golfing gods were just not on my side the last couple of weeks.
“I enjoyed the last two weeks on a scale of 1 to 10, probably a 10. I enjoyed every step. From a scoring standpoint, I haven't enjoyed that. I felt like I've played a lot better than what my scores indicated, and just didn't work out.”