Duval is Open champion after closely fought contest
The setting for the 2001 Open Championship was Royal Lytham & St Annes. With the most gruelling finishing stretch of five holes in Open golf, the crowds watched in anticipation to see if defending Champion Tiger Woods could tame the course, despite his recent poor form.
The first day of the competition dawned dull and cool. It was Colin Montgomerie who received the most support, due to his low score of 65 and he led the field by 3 strokes. David Duval was one of fifteen who scored 69 and five more scored 70. Woods had a disheartening start, finding three bunkers during his round of 71.
The weather on Friday was brighter, producing better conditions for the golfers and also lower scores. Thirty players scored in the 60’s and Frank Lickliter achieved a hole in one at the fifth. Unlike the previous day, Montgomerie had a tentative round and scored 70 to remain in the lead by one stroke. Those who had previously tied on second place fell away and were replaced by little known Swede Pierre Fulke. Woods made good recoveries from unfortunate mistakes and finished on 69, just four behind Montgomerie. He and six others shared a score of 139. Niclas Fasth, playing in his first Open, scored 69 and moved quietly up to fourth place but Duval had a double bogey at the 10th and finished with 73, seven shots off the lead.
The third day was characterised by shifting positions, with scores so tightly packed that every shot mattered. By the end, thirteen players were within a shot of each other and another six were one shot behind. Duval had the most exceptional round of the day scoring 65 and moving from joint 35th position to tie for the lead. Conversely, Montgomerie lost his momentum and scored 73, falling into tied fifth position. This was obviously not to be Tiger’s competition either. Despite a promising start, he took seven strokes at the 7th hole and finished with 73. Veteran Open golfers Bernhard Langer and Ian Woosnam shot 67 and moved into joint first position. The German golfer Alex Cejka played a steady 69 to join the three others at the top of the table.
Duval stood on the first tee on the final day of the competition, determined to prove critics of his mediocre Open performances of previous years wrong. Others expected to have a good day also. Unfortunately, Woosnam, sitting in joint first position, got off to a bad start, with a 2-stroke penalty at the first tee for having too many clubs in his bag. Montgomerie and Cejka fell away to 13th position and Woods finished in 25th position, his lowest ever. Surprise challenger Fasth set an early pace with four birdies on the front nine and a round of 67. He was in the clubhouse some two hours ahead of Duval with a score of 277.
Duval, however, was in winning form. Birdies at the difficult 6th and 7th holes and again after finding a bunker at the 11th allowed him to pull in front. Despite finding the long grass beside the 14th fairway, he played an unbelievable shot from there onto the green, managing to save par, and repeated this again at the 15th. He finished with a round of 67 for a total of 274, three shots ahead of Fasth, to become the worthy Open Champion of 2001.