Open title won in dramatic four hole play-off
The 2004 Open Championship was played at Royal Troon. Paul Casey and Frenchman Thomas Levet set the pace on the first day with rounds of 66. The 2002 Open Champion Ernie Els carded a 69, whilst US Masters Champion Phil Mickelson had a disappointing round of 73. Unknown American Todd Hamilton opened quietly with a score of 71. New Zealander Michael Campbell scored 67 and a group of nine players, including Amateur Champion Stuart Wilson, achieved rounds of 68. Tiger Woods enjoyed huge spectator interest but could do no better than 70.
The second day’s strong crosswinds affected players for most the day. Joint first round leader Casey struggled round in 77. Levet, on 70, slipped to second position. Montgomerie scored 69. He finished in fifth position along with Els, who had a steady 69, Singh with 70 and Hamilton, who quietly shot 67. Mickelson redeemed the previous day’s 73 by scoring 66. Woods was pleased with his par 71, which despite being a stroke over his first round score moved him to six strokes off the lead. American Skip Kendall had a good day, his round of 66 moving him to the top of the leader board, seven under par.
The third day brought mixed weather conditions and ended with a completely different leader board. Todd Hamilton played another excellent 67, which was bogey-free and moved to the top of the table with 205. He could not relax just yet, however. During the day, the big names made their mark on the competition. Despite a bogey at the 8th, Els had a steady 68 to move one stroke behind Hamilton. A further stroke behind, on 207, were Mickelson, Goosen and Levet. Woods found some late form and had an excellent first nine, scoring 68 and moving to within four shots of the lead. Others were disappointed; Montgomerie found bunkers and missed greens for an uninspiring 72 and Kendall suffered with 75.
The final day, like many others in the history of The Open, was characterised by shifting positions and late challenges. The title could have gone to any one of four men, but in the end it was Todd Hamilton who stuck to his game plan and survived. For Woods and Goosen, their challenge ended early in the day. Mickleson had an excellent start, and throughout his round he took turns with Els, Levet and Hamilton to lead. A bogey at the 13th, however, ended his hopes for victory. Levet also had a good start with an eagle at the 4th but fell away with a round score of 72. Els fought for the lead throughout his round and a birdie at the 17th meant he went 10 under and passed Mickelson. Hamilton and Els were playing together and when they reached the 18th tee, the American held a one stroke lead. Els’ approach shot landed within ten feet of the hole whilst Hamilton’s tee shot landed in the rough and he struggled to reach the green. Els putted for The Open Championship but was short. Hamilton made his bogey putt to ensure a four hole playoff.
After playing two holes, both players stood at the 17th tee even, but Els made a mistake with his first shot and dropped a stroke. At the 18th, Els found the fairway and Hamilton didn’t. However, the American played a remarkable shot out of the rough with a 3-wood to chip onto the green. Els had a birdie putt opportunity from about 15 feet, but it drifted left. Hamilton was now two feet from victory and he sunk the pressure putt to become The Open Champion.