David Duval, 29, an American, won the 130th Open golf tournament at Royal Lytham and St Annes yesterday, but for most British fans the drama of the day was the fate of the hugely popular Welshman, Ian Woosnam.
Woosnam, 43, a former winner of the US Masters tournament, had improbably revived his hopes of winning his first British Open with some brilliant play on Saturday, but his hopes were shattered on the second hole yesterday when he incurred a two-stroke penalty after he discovered he had an extra club in his bag.
The law of golf is quite explicit. A player can carry only 14 clubs in tournament play. Woosnam found that he had 15, an extra driver, at the second tee and angrily threw it away. He spoke tersely to his caddie, Myles Byrne, on the course – but later said that despite administering a "a bollocking" he would not be firing the recently appointed Byrne.
Woosnam was devastated by the automatic penalty, which wiped away his brilliant start of a birdie at the first hole, a move that could have created the momentum for victory. Instead, Woosnam lost two more shots over the next three holes, and never really challenged the hold of Duval after that. He finished sharing third place with five other players, four strokes behind Duval, Without the penalty, he would have been in a clear second place – and £218,333 richer.
"When I got the two stroke penalty I felt like I had been kicked in the teeth," Woosnam said. "It's hard enough playing against the best players in the world without giving them a two shot advantage. It took me a few holes to recover. I managed to shoot level par which would have been a 69 but it might have cost me a couple of shots while I was recovering from it."
But despite that disappointment, Woosnam, legendary in golf for his happy-go-lucky approach to the sport and his liking for a pint of best bitter, had recovered his sense of humour before too long. When asked if he had previously had a system of making sure he didn't carry too many clubs, he said that he did. He and his old caddie started counting at one and finished at 14.
Such drollness plainly concealed a lot of pain, shared by another British hero, Colin Montgomerie, who after a superb opening 65 faded on the last day – as did last year's champion, American superstar Tiger Woods – who finished nine strokes behind Duval.Reuse content