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  Sunday, 21 July, 2002, 19:19 GMT 20:19 UK
Ernie realises Open dream
Ernie Els
Els believed 2002 had been his last chance
Open champion Ernie Els admitted his victory came as a major relief after a decade of trying to claim the title.

The South African triumphed at Muirfield after a sudden death play-off with France's Thomas Levet, winning courtesy of a simple four-foot putt.

And he told the BBC that 2002 had been his last chance of winning The Open.

"I have been after this one for 10 years. I remember being here in 1992, finishing fifth as a 22-year-old.

"I have been going at this for a pretty long time.


I played good golf and I don't regret anything
Thomas Levet

"If I hadn't won this year I don't think I would have made it. But I'm going to enjoy defending this one."

Els had looked on course to win in regulation play but a double bogey on the 16th and a missed birdie chance took him into a four-way play-off with Levet, Stuart Appleby and Steve Elkington.

After four holes, he moved into sudden death with Levet which he won on the first.

He was immediately lifted into the air by the Frenchman after his triumph and was quick to pay tribute to his playing partner.

"It is unfortunate for Thomas," he added.

Els insisted his bunker play had ensured his third Major.

Twice he had found himself deep in the sand, the second coming on the sudden death 18th with Levet.

Els said: "I worked hard on those bunker shots."

About his last bunker shot, he added: "I wanted it closer to the hole but I was satisfied with that shot. But I still had to make the putt."

Bad drive

Levet, meanwhile, refused to be downbeat after sharing the runners-up spot with Allenby and Elkington.

The Frenchman had a dire outing on the sudden death 18th, finding the bunker and effectively ruling out his Open chances.

Afterwards he insisted he was happy to have come away with second spot.

He added: "I played good golf and I don't regret anything. I hit a bad drive and that's all it was.

"But I'm happy for him (Els)."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Open Champion Ernie Els
"I thought my chance of victory had gone"
Thomas Levet
"Ernie is a great champion"
Els' caddie Ricky Roberts
"It's been a rollercoaster ride"
BBC Sport Online's Open Golf Championship news section

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