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  Sunday, 21 July, 2002, 20:45 GMT 21:45 UK
Muirfield rips up the script
Englishman Gary Evans
Evans' final round was one of the highlights at Muirfield
BBC Sport Online's Matt Slater reports from Muirfield

When Thomas Levet finished his fourth round at Muirfield on Sunday he wore the expression of a man well pleased with his day's work.

Three birdies, an eagle and no dropped shots had taken the Frenchman from the overnight bunch at one under par to a share of the clubhouse lead set only 10 minutes before by Australia's Stuart Appleby.

When asked if he was going to wait to see how Ernie Els, then leading by a shot with four holes to play, would finish, he said "mais oui" - or words to that effect.


He deserves it. He's a good man and I'm getting better, but I'm not that good
Levet on Els

But the 31-year-old Parisian then added: "I am hoping for him, because I never like to win a tournament by somebody dropping down. That's never fun.

"He deserves it. He's a good man and I'm getting better, but I'm not that good."

Maybe not, but he is getting pretty close.

And it took five thrilling play-off holes, the last of them a one-on-one shootout with Els, to settle it.

Els, so often the bridesmaid, finally had his hands on the claret jug that Levet had been so ready to hand to him two hours before.

The popular South African did deserve it, but only just.

And his many fans will wonder why 'the Big Easy' had to make things quite so difficult for himself - his double bogey at 16 so nearly consigned him to yet more Major misery.

But as it happened, the first four-ball play-off in Open history - but the third play-off in five Opens - was a fitting finale to a most unpredictable edition of golf's most unpredictable Major.

Gary Evans' lost ball par on 17, Tiger's taming in the rain, Monty's 20-stroke swing, Duffy's Hawaiian shirts... so many stories, where do we start?

Whenever anybody looked like fate was fingering them for glory, something would happen to show them just how fickle fate can be.

Australia's Steve Elkington was the first of the four men in the play-off to drop out of contention, but he had missed a sitter on the 18th green little more than an hour before to win outright.

Ireland's Padraig Harrington will rue a number of mistakes that kept from a place in the play-off at the very least, if not a first Major title.

Tiger Woods
Tiger showed character to bounce back on Sunday

And 24 hours earlier, the Muirfield monsoon had capsized the hopes of a raft of players, including the world number one Tiger Woods.

Chasing an unprecedented single season sweep of golf's four Majors, Woods was simply blown away on a remarkable day of golf, and weather, on Saturday.

Woods wasn't alone - Colin Montgomerie, David Toms and Phil Mickelson all met their Waterloos in the wet stuff - but like a true champion he bounced back.

His six-under-par 65 early on Sunday set the tone for what would be as different a day of golf as possible from the scrap for survival that was Saturday.

Where Tiger blazed a trail, others followed. Appleby shot a 65 to reach the play-off, and Levet and Elkington fired 66s.

But the performance of the day, and probably the week (and there are many candidates), belonged to the unheralded Evans.

The best-placed Brit, who has never won in over 10 years on the tour, carded a Tiger-matching 65 to miss the play-off by just one shot.

His heroic putt for par on the 17th and heart-breaking bogey on the 18th will live long in the memory.

And to think people were saying golf was getting too predictable.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Open Champion Ernie Els
"I thought my chance of victory had gone"
Els' caddie Ricky Roberts
"It's been a rollercoaster ride"
Beaten play-off contender Stuart Appleby
"I am disappointed"
BBC Sport Online's Open Golf Championship news section

All the Muirfield action

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Links to more The Open stories are at the foot of the page.


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