Tom Watson's British Open Dream Shattered
Tom Watson's dream to create sporting history by winning the British Open for the sixth time ended in tears as Stewart Cink won the four-hole play-off on the final day to lift the Claret Jug at the Ailsa Craig Golf Course on Sunday.
The front-runner for last three days, 59-year-old Watson, and the 36-year-old Cink, were tied at two-under 208 after 72 holes, leading to a four-hole play-off.
Cink won the four-hole play-off by five shots - as Watson was uncharacteristically full of errors. Cink parred the fifth and sixth and birdied the 17th and 18th, while Watson bogeyed the fifth, parred the sixth, triple bogeyed the 17th and bogeyed the 18th.
Cink, who was barely two years old, when Watson won the first of his five Open titles in 1975, took his maiden Major. The five-time winner on the PGA Tour title, Cink also has in his kitty a WGC title won in 2004.
Earlier in regulation play, Cink waited for more than half an hour after his final birdie. Meanwhile, Watson and the crowd were seemingly readying themselves for a historic moment. Watson came to the 18th tee holding a one-shot lead and needing a par to win the title.
Watson reached the edge in two and then failed to hole out in two from there. From three-under he fell to two-under and into a play-off, which he lost by a mile.
There was so much focus on Watson for the last four days, that the 36-year-old Cink, looking for his maiden Major title, may well have felt that he was playing a different tournament and not the 138th Open Championships.
For 71 and half holes of regulation play, the Claret Jug had all but been given to Watson for the sixth time. But when it came to that final touch, Watson, who played like an artist at Turnberry, smudged the masterpiece and allowed Cink to shut the door on history.
Needing to two-putt from the apron of the 18th green, Watson, who had sunk unbelievable putts from 60 feet earlier in the week, failed and destiny, which seemed so much on his side, had shifted into Cink's courtyard.
Through the day, Watson seemed to be walking towards the history books, before Watson added one more Act to the already emotion-draining drama at the Turnberry Golf Resort. He missed an eight-foot par putt to allow a play-off.
Watson, starting the day at four-under and with a lead of one, finished the final round with a round of 72. Cink, who had opened the tournament with a 66, went out three groups ahead of the leader, and starting the day at one-under 209, shot a 69 to come to two-under 268.
Cink, who has never won a Major - Watson has eight, five of which are Opens - had half an hour earlier sunk a 12-footer for a birdie on the 72nd to get to two-under and end the clubhouse leader, Chris Wood's hopes. Wood, the low amateur, 12 months ago at Birkdale, had played an electric three-under 67 to jump from two-over overnight to one-under.
A group ahead of Watson, Lee Westwood, kept flirting with the lead after his birdie-eagle sequence on sixth and seventh. But then three bogeys on 16, 17th and 18th, put paid to his hopes of becoming the first British winner, since Paul Lawrie at Carnoustie in 1999.
So, Woods and Westwood stayed tied at third, while Watson and Cink went into the play-off.
Earlier in the day Luke Donald (67), Retief Goosen (72) and Matthew Goggin (73) kept battling Watson and then faded at various stages to finish at even par for the tournament and in tied fifth place.
Ernie Els, the 2002 Open champion, showed glimpses of his old form, but starting from three-over and seven off the lead, he had left himself too much to do. He shot a 68 and ended one-over and in tied eighth with Soren Hansen (67), Justin Leonard (68), Thomas Aiken (69) and Richard Johnson (70).