Mark Calcavecchia became the first player since 1975 to win The Open in a play-off which was notable on two counts.
It was the first three-way play-off – Australians Greg Norman and Wayne Grady were the runners-up – and it was the first play-off to be contested over four holes instead of a full extra round.
Twice on the same day Calcavecchia, who grew up playing golf in Florida, birdied the 18th hole to win the Claret Jug – playing in only his third Open.
On a hot and sunny final day at Royal Troon, Calcavecchia started three strokes adrift of Grady, while Norman was seven behind.
Six birdies in a row to begin his final round put the Shark in contention and he finished with a 64 to post the clubhouse target at nine under par.
Calcavecchia was helped by holing a putt of 40 feet at the 11th and a pitch of 60 feet on the full at the 12th. An 8-iron to four feet at the last set up the birdie he needed to tie Norman having posted his three consecutive rounds of 68.
He admitted thinking: “Man, I can three-putt from six feet and win the British Open. Just make sure you don’t double hit it.”
Grady bogeyed the 17th to ball back to nine under and a par at the last gave him a 71 and a spot in the play-off, in which he would finish three behind the winner.
Norman again started fast in extra time, birdieing the first two holes, but then over-shot the 17th green and took a bogey to drop back into a tie with Calcavecchia.
The Great White Shark’s great length was his undoing at the last. He drove into a bunker 310 yards away and could only advance his second shot into another bunker.
Calcavecchia now clinched victory with a 5-iron approach to six feet. It was his finest hour, while Norman, going out of bounds over the green with this third squandered his chance.