Daly's cup runs over as Rocca dries up

THE 124th OPEN: 'Wild Thing' embraces the claret jug after being forced into a play-off by Italian's extraordinary putt at the last

John Daly won the 124th Open Championship yesterday and the old silver claret jug will be filled with a beverage for which it was not intended. The 29-year-old American, a reformed alcoholic who once earned the sobriquet of "Wild Thing", defeated Costantino Rocca in a four hole play-off after the Italian pulled off the most breathtaking finish that even the Old Course had witnessed.

Daly, who as a rookie, came from nowhere to win the US PGA Championship in 1991, appeared to be home and dry in the arms of his wife, Paulette, in the clubhouse when his 71 put him at six under with an aggregate of 282. Rocca, who was suspected of being vulnerable with a putter in his hands, needed a birdie-three at the last to tie with Daly and when he duffed a chip the celebrations began in the American camp. Daly embraced his wife while Rocca stood over a putt of about 45 feet. He rammed it into the hole for a three which brought him level with Daly. While Daly disengaged himself from his wife, Rocca collapsed to the ground and began punching the hallowed turf.

Neither he nor anybody else in the crowd of 35,000 could believe that such an extraordinary climax was possible. The trouble is that Rocca's celebration was premature. In the play-off he did not appear to have anything left. They went down the first, the second, the 17th and 18th and Daly outplayed him: 4 to a 5, 3 to a 4, 4 to a 7 and 4 to a 3. Rocca, still running on the adrenalin of his amazing putt at the last, charged his first putt past the flag at the first and missed the return and at the second Daly holed from long range. At the 17th Rocca put his approach into the Road Hole bunker and took three to get out. All Daly had to do to win was to avoid smacking the ball into the precincts of the auld grey town as they went down the 18th for the last time.

Daly, who began the day at five under, four strokes behind Campbell, made his move at the fourth in the final round with a birdie and picked up further shots at the seventh and eighth to get to eight under at which point he led the championship. Daly wavered over the closing holes, dropping a shot at the 16th where he three-putted and another at the 17th where his approach landed in the face of the notorious bunker. Ernie Els, his playing partner, was in a similar predicament and the South African, playing first, showed him how to do it. Daly got out of the sand but it still cost him a bogey five. At the last he played safe with an iron and had to accept par.

Rocca, who began at seven under, appeared to be out of contention when he dropped to four under at the 10th but the Italian birdied the long 14th and made a miraculous save at the 17th, chipping from the road to within several feet of the flag. The Road Hole, however, finally took its toll on Rocca. Daly won pounds 125,000, Rocca pounds 100,000, and they finished a stroke in front of Steven Bottomley, Mark Brooks and Michael Campbell.

This was the 25th Open at St Andrews and, in terms of results, one of the most unorthodox. Bottomley was about a million to one with the bookmakers and that was just in the qualifying tournament last Monday. Bottomley, a perennial entrant in the tortuous process known as the qualifying school on the European Tour, played two rounds at Ladybank and only got into the Open after surviving a play-off which had eight men going for seven places.

Bottomley came through by holing a nine-foot putt at Ladybank with his eyes closed. Had he not had a bogey at the Road Hole, the 17th, yesterday he would have got into the play-off. Joe Francis, a magician by profession, was his caddie and considering Bottomley's promotion here that is not at all surprising.

Bottomley, who remarked on his seventh visit to the qualifying school, "I'd rather have a full bottle in front of me than a full-frontal lobotomy," is from Shipley in Yorkshire. "I have my parents, my caddie and my golf club to thank," he said."They have stood by me. To finish this way is unbelievable. It was the best round of my life. I tried not to think it was the Open." Bottomley had made only one cut in his last nine tournaments and his best finish in Europe was 10th in Tenerife in 1990. When he played the Challenge Tour - this is where Rocca cut his teeth - he lived in a mobile home. "Hopefully this will improve my confidence," he said. The 30-year-old Bottomley, who turned professional after qualifying for the 1987 Open, can now afford something more salubrious than a caravanette. Under such conditions his 69, which took him from two under to five under, was a minor masterpiece.

Jack Nicklaus, who teed off at 7.27am, had a one-under-par 71 and it is just as well there are fresher faces on the leaderboard. No Arnie at Royal Lytham next year and by the sounds of it no Golden Bear. Nicklaus, playing in his 34th successive Open, will return to St Andrews in the year 2000 but in between he is not sure. He didn't seem to be sure of anything yesterday.

"Not coming back has nothing to do with the courses being played in the next few years," Nicklaus said. "I don't even know where the Opens are being played. Maybe I like Lytham... Lytham I have always liked. I almost won the first time I played there." Nicklaus agreed with the view of Tom Watson that because of the development of clubs and balls, scoring is easier. He could envisage someone over 60 winning the Open. "The ball goes so far, the equipment is so much better and it is keeping guys in the game. Today you have about 400 guys who hit the ball as far as I did in my prime. I would like to see them do something about it."

Yesterday Nicklaus finished birdie, bogey, birdie and for the first time landed on the road at the 17th. As the song might have put it: Hit the road Jack and won't you come back no more?

Gordon Sherry, who has had a red letter month, finally played like a mere mortal and went round in 76. At 291, three over par, Sherry did not finish as leading amateur. That honour went to Steve Webster, who shot 73 and finished at one over par. It was an outstanding performance from the 20-year-old from Atherstone in Warwickshire who can now expect one of the two remaining places in the Britain and Ireland Walker Cup side for the match against the United States at Royal Porthcawl in September. Webster, of course, did not earn a penny and his career has been sustained by his mother Val who has three jobs. She had to relinquish one of her shifts over the weekend to watch her son and the time will probably come when she can afford to cut down on her workload.

Martin Johnson,

Ken Jones, page 22

HOW THE PLAY-OFF WAS WON

FIRST HOLE (1, 370 yds, par 4)

ROCCA (previous rounds: 3 4 4 4) 5

Three-putted, after good tee shot and pitch

DALY (previous rounds: 4 4 4 4) 4

Steady play won the hole

Daly leads by one shot

SECOND HOLE (2, 411 yds, par 4)

ROCCA (5 3 3 4) 4

Superb second shot rescued a poor tee shot

DALY (4 4 4 4) 3

Brilliant 50-foot putt for a birdie

Daly leads by two shots

THIRD HOLE (17th, 461 yds, par 4)

ROCCA (4 5 4 4) 7

Poor second shot into bunker, and three shots out of it decide the championship

DALY (4 4 6 5) 4

Monstrous tee shot and careful approach bring a hard-earned par

Daly leads by five shots

FOURTH HOLE (18, 354yds, par 4)

ROCCA (4 3 4 3) 3

Drove into Valley of Sin, but the birdie comes too late

DALY (3 4 3 4) 4

Steady pitch and run and two careful putts wrap up the championship

Daly wins play-off by four shots

FINAL ROUND SCORES

(GB or Irl unless stated, * denotes amateur)

282

J Daly (US) 67 71 73 71

C Rocca (It) 69 70 70 73

283

S Bottomley 70 72 72 69

M Brooks (US) 70 69 73 71

M Campbell (NZ) 71 71 65 76

284

V Singh (Fiji) 68 72 73 71

S Elkington (Aus) 72 69 69 74

285

M James 72 75 68 70

B Estes (US) 72 70 71 72

C Pavin (US) 69 70 72 74

286

P Stewart (US) 72 68 75 71

B Ogle (Aus) 73 69 71 73

S Torrance 71 70 71 74

E Els (SA) 71 68 72 75

287

G Norman (Aus) 71 74 72 70

R Allenby (Aus) 71 74 71 71

B Crenshaw (US) 67 72 76 72

P-U Johansson (Swe) 69 78 68 72

B Faxon (US) 71 67 75 74

288

P Mitchell 73 74 71 70

D Duval (US) 71 75 70 72

A Coltart 70 74 71 73

B Lane 72 73 68 75

289

L Janzen (US) 73 73 71 72

* S Webster 70 72 74 73

B Langer (Ger) 72 71 73 73

J Parnevik (Swe) 75 71 70 73

M Calcavecchia (US) 71 72 72 74

B Glasson (US) 68 74 72 75

K Tomori (Jap) 70 68 73 78

290

R Drummond 74 68 77 71

J M Olazabal (Sp) 72 72 74 72

D Frost (SA) 72 72 74 72

H Sasaki (Japan) 74 71 72 73

J Huston (US) 71 74 72 73

P Jacobsen (US) 71 76 70 73

D Clarke 69 77 70 74

D Feherty 68 75 71 76

T Watson (US) 67 76 70 77

291

S Ballesteros (Sp) 75 69 76 71

W Bennett 72 74 73 72

P Mickelson (US) 70 71 77 73

M McNulty (Zim) 67 76 74 74

N Faldo 74 67 75 75

B Watts (US) 72 71 73 75

* G Sherry 70 71 74 76

J Cook (US) 69 70 75 77

N Price (Zim) 70 74 70 77

292

I Woosnam 71 74 76 71

A Forsbrand (Swe) 70 74 75 73

M O'Meara (US) 72 72 75 73

T Nakajima (Japan) 73 72 72 75

B Claar (US) 71 75 71 75

K Green (US) 71 72 73 76

293

J Gallagher Jnr (US) 69 76 75 73

P O'Malley (Aus) 71 73 74 75

R Claydon 70 74 71 78

294

P Senior (Aus) 71 75 78 70

P Broadhurst 73 72 76 73

D Cooper 71 76 74 73

E Herrera (Col) 74 72 73 75

T Kite (US) 72 76 71 75

P Lawrie 73 71 74 76

M Gates 73 73 72 76

R Floyd (US) 72 74 72 76

J Leonard (US) 73 67 77 77

D Gilford 69 72 75 78

295

P Baker 70 74 81 70

J Maggert (US) 75 70 78 72

J Lomas 74 73 75 73

F Nobilo (NZ) 70 71 80 74

G Player (SA) 71 73 77 74

O Karlsson (Swe) 71 76 73 75

M Hallberg (Swe) 68 76 75 76

S Hoch (US) 74 72 73 76

G Hallberg (US) 72 74 72 77

J Rivero (Sp) 70 72 75 78

* T Woods (US) 74 71 72 78

296

R Kawagishi (Japan) 72 76 80 68

P Burke (US) 75 72 78 71

J Nicklaus (US) 78 70 77 71

B Lohr (US) 76 68 79 73

J Sandelin (Swe) 75 71 77 73

S Lyle 71 71 79 75

S Lowery (US) 69 74 76 77

D Robertson 71 73 74 78

J Haas (US) 76 72 70 78

297

M A Jimenez (Sp) 75 73 76 73

M Davis 74 71 76 76

J Delsing (US) 72 75 73 77

E Romero (Arg) 74 74 72 77

G Sauers (US) 69 73 75 80

W Riley (Aus) 70 72 75 80

298

J Hawksworth 73 74 75 76

B Longmuir 72 76 72 78

299

L Westwood 71 72 82 74

J Coceres (Arg) 71 76 78 74

300

S Burnell 72 76 75 77

D Love III (US) 70 78 74 78

301

* G Clark 71 76 80 74

302

D Pooley (US) 76 71 80 75

M Nichols 75 68 78 81

303

P Linhart (Sp) 72 75 77 79

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