For the second time in three years Ernie Els was in a play-off for The Open but this time lost out to Todd Hamilton.
The 38-year-old American was ranked 56th in the world after winning for the first time on the PGA Tour in March but had spent most of his career in Japan. Playing in his fourth Open, he admitted enjoying playing “ugly golf” and his scrambling skills ultimately proved decisive.
A second consecutive 67 put Hamilton one ahead of Els going into the final round, during which the lead fluctuated between not just that twosome but Thomas Levet and Phil Mickelson, with the left-handed American claiming his best Open finish of third.
Els, not helped by a double bogey at the 10th, was two behind with two to play but birdied the 17th and set up a birdie from 10 feet at the last. For once Hamilton could not save par so Els had his putt for the victory. It missed only after breaking sharply left at the last minute.
Both players parred the first two holes of the play-off but Els bogeyed the 17th before setting up another birdie chance at the last from 12 feet. Hamilton was 30 yards short of the green in two but played an exquisite chip-and-run with a hybrid club to two feet. Els missed again and Hamilton holed.
Els became the first player to twice record four rounds under 70 and not to win on either occasion, 1993 at Sandwich the other time. He had holed in one at the Postage Stamp, the eighth hole, in round one, the same day Gary Evans had an albatross at the fourth, holing a 5-iron from 227 yards.
Hamilton was the sixth consecutive American winner at Royal Troon. “I knew I was a decent golfer,” he said.
Login or join The One Club today and watch The Open Film 2004 for free.