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  Sunday, 21 July, 2002, 22:13 GMT 23:13 UK
Smiling Levet settles for second
Ernie Els (left) and Thomas Levet
Levet heaped praise on the new Open champion
Thomas Levet looked anything but a defeated man as he contemplated a second-place finish at The Open Championship.

The jovial Frenchman was beaten by Ernie Els on the first hole of a dramatic sudden death play-off, but the 31-year-old insisted his opponent deserved his win.


I played the play-off the way I wanted
Thomas Levet

"Ernie's a great champion and he really deserved it. It's not nice to win a tournament when other guys drop shots," he said.

"Ernie took it back and I'm happy for him.

"I will take second place at the Open every year," added Levet, who went on to defend his tactics and choice of clubs at the vital 18th.

Both in the four-way play-off and in sudden death with Els, Levet tempted fate by taking his driver on the 18th instead of going for accuracy with a two-iron.

Stuart Appleby
Appleby was eliminated after the first play-off

Each time the ploy failed and on the second occasion he drove into the bunker to virtually hand Els victory.

"I played the play-off the way I wanted," said Levet.

"I was just not lucky on 17 and 18. On 17, I was a yard left (and landed in a bunker) and would have been on the green with two putts for a birdie. On 18 I had an unplayable bunker shot.

"I'm two inches from carrying the bunker and getting onto the green."


If someone had told me at the start of the week where I'd finish I would have been happy
Stuart Appleby

And instead of dwelling on what might have been, Levet looked ahead to the opprtunities his Muirfield performance will afford him.

"Hopefully I can take this and go forward," he said.

"I'll be eligible for some more tournaments, like the US PGA."

Australian Stuart Appleby, who like his compatriot Steve Elkington was eliminated after the first play-off, had no complaints.

"You know it was good fun. If someone had told me at the start of the week where I'd finish I would have been happy," he said.

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Open runner-up Thomas Levet
"Ernie is a great champion"
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