TURNBERRY (Reuters) - Tom Watson’s remarkable bid for a British Open victory at the age of 59 fell agonizingly short on Sunday when he lost to fellow American Stewart Cink in a four-hole playoff.
Seeking a record-tying sixth Claret Jug, Watson squandered the chance to become golf’s oldest major champion when he overshot the green before missing an eight-foot par putt on the 72nd hole.
Cink, who had earlier rolled in a 15-footer there for a birdie three to take the clubhouse lead on two-under 278 at Turnberry’s Ailsa Course, took advantage to seal his maiden major title.
“I’m a little intimidated by this piece of hardware here,” an emotional Cink, 36, said after being presented with the Claret Jug on the 18th green.
“There are a lot of emotions running through my mind and heart and I’m as proud as I can be to be here with this (trophy).
“It was fun watching Tom all week and I’m sure I speak for all the rest of the people too.”
Cink won the first extra hole, the fifth, with a par when Watson took a five after hitting his approach into a greenside bunker and hitting an ugly third shot from the sand.
They each parred the second extra hole, the par-three sixth, before Cink effectively sealed the win at the par-five 17th with a two-putt birdie.
Watson double-bogeyed the hole after driving into thick rough on the right and taking two more shots to reach the fairway.
Cink, who had previously finished third three times in majors, thrust both arms skywards to celebrate his breakthrough win after rolling in a four-footer to birdie the fourth extra hole, the 18th.
One of the most remarkable major championships of all time finally ended with Watson having to settle for second place in pursuit of a ninth major title.
He had been aiming to shatter golf’s previous record for the oldest major winner, compatriot Julius Boros having clinched the 1968 U.S. PGA Championship at the age of 48.
“It would have been a hell of a story, wouldn’t it?” Watson said. “It wasn’t to be.
“Yes, it’s a great disappointment. It (losing) tears at your gut, as it always has torn at my gut. It’s not easy to take.”
The duo had finished the regulation 72 holes on two under, Watson bogeying the last for a 72 and Cink closing with a 69.
Blustery crosswinds made scoring difficult in the final round of the year’s third major and the leaderboard fluctuated wildly.
Ross Fisher, with back-to-back birdies from the first, and fellow Briton Lee Westwood, after the seventh, established two-shot cushions before slipping back.
All of the leading players dropped shots on the back nine and Cink never led until holing his birdie putt on the 18th green.
Westwood, who eagled the par-five seventh, faltered after the turn on the way to a 71 and a tie for third place with fellow Briton Chris Wood (67).
Double U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen of South Africa eagled the 17th for a 72 to share fifth place with Britain’s Luke Donald (67) and Australian Mathew Goggin (73).
Editing by Tony Jimenez