Todd Hamilton beats Ernie Els in playoff
American outsider Todd Hamilton held off the challenge of some of the game's biggest names before beating Ernie Els in a four-hole playoff for the 133rd British Open on Sunday.
The pair had finished level at 10-under 274, Hamilton bogeying the last for a 69 and Els making three birdies in the final six holes for a 68 at a blustery Royal Troon.
Both players parred the first two extra holes before Hamilton went ahead at the 222-yard 17th, Els missing the green to the left on his way to a bogey-four.
The pair then produced matching pars on 18 for Hamilton, world-ranked 56, to clinch the title.
"I'm so excited, I probably won't sleep for two or three or perhaps seven days," an emotional Hamilton told reporters after becoming the sixth American in a row to win at Troon.
"I've won tournaments around the world before, but nothing on a stage like this. To be Open champion is very special.
"I've dreamed about this and I hoped that something like this would happen," added the Texas-based professional, who became the sixth first-time winner of a major in the last seven.
Hamilton, who considered quitting the game until he won his PGA Tour card last December, appeared to have the title in his grasp when leading by a shot with one hole remaining in regulation play.
However, the 38-year-old from Illinois pushed his tee shot on 18 into the right rough and then hit his second well left, just short of the the public grandstand, before running up a bogey-five.
Els, who seemed to throw away his own victory hopes when he double-bogeyed the par-four 10th, had bounced back with birdies on 13, 16 and 17.
The big-hitting South African then had a chance to seal victory at the last, but he narrowly missed his birdie attempt from eight feet.
"Right now, I'm thinking of the putt on the 72nd hole," said Els. "That's the putt I'm going to be thinking about for a while. I had such a good second shot there you know.
"I played really well coming in and just getting back into the race was a hell of an effort.
"But Todd played wonderfully. I always knew he was a good player. He putted well and his short game is really unbelievable. We got a great champion."
U.S. Masters champion Phil Mickelson had held the outright lead by one with seven regulation holes to play after Hamilton bogeyed the 10th.
However, the American left-hander lost momentum after dropping on 13 and, despite a birdie at the par-five 16th, had to settle for third place at nine under with a closing 68.
"I felt I played very well and to miss out by a shot is very disappointing," said Mickelson, who had never before produced a top-10 British Open finish.
"What Todd and Ernie did is really incredible. It's a very difficult cross-wind to get the ball close to the holes and the way they handled it to get birdies is very impressive."
Britain's Lee Westwood birdied two of the last three holes, including a 40-foot putt at the last, for a 67 and fourth place at six under.
A further stroke back in a tie for fifth was 1997 U.S. PGA champion Davis Love III, who holed his approach at the last for an eagle-two and a matching 67. Level with Love was Frenchman Thomas Levet, after a 72.
Tiger Woods, without a major title since the 2002 U.S. Open, shared ninth place at three under with Canada's Mike Weir (71), after dropping three shots on the back nine for a 72.
"I had a chance this week and felt like I really could have won this tournament," the world number one told reporters.
"But I just made made too many mistakes. I will have to take a look at where I went wrong, and rectify that before the next tournament."
The final round had been set for a thrilling climax, with many of the game's biggest names in contention and five former major winners occupying the top 10 spots.
Despite difficult conditions at Troon with tough pin positions and gusting winds, the championship came alive with a breathtaking display of shot-making on the first nine.
Mickelson chipped in for eagle at the par-five fourth to get to eight under soon after Els had holed a 20-foot birdie putt at the par-four third hole, despite hooking his tee shot left just short of a perimeter fence outside the television compound.
Frenchman Levet, edged out by Els in a sudden-death playoff for the 2002 Open at Muirfield, had been the first to join overnight leader Hamilton at eight under, chipping in for eagle from behind the green at the par-five fourth.
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