OMearas One-Two Punch in 1998


It was the year that Mark OMeara found the magic elixer at the age of 41. After a most improbable win at the 98 Masters, he made it a most unlikely double by winning a playoff over Brian Watts at Royal Birkdale for the 1998 British Open.
OMeara probably should never have won. He was way back in a tie for 62nd when the day began, but by the halfway point had eased into a tie for sixth, trailing Watts by three. By the end of Round 3 he had nosed up slightly on the lead, standing two shots behind Watts, tied for the runner-up position with Jesper Parnevik and Jim Furyk.
Interestingly, both Friday and Saturday were foul-weather days. OMeara had shot a 68 and a 72 under rainy, windy conditions, allowing him to climb up the leaderboard. Sunday, though, conditions were balmy. Could OMeara hold up?
Eight men could have won ' Watts, OMeara, Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, Raymond Russell, Furyk, Parnevik and Brad Faxon.
OMeara played several miraculous shots to escape from trouble on the front side Sunday, but stole the lead with birdies at 11 and 12, holing putts of 15 and 20 feet. OMeara bogeyed the 13th, however, and was tied with Watts and Furyk.
Woods, playing ahead of Watts and OMeara, factored into the tournament when he birdied three of the last four holes. That left him in a tie with Watts and OMeara, Woods retiring after playing the 18th while Watts was playing the 15th, OMeara the 16th.
OMeara birdied the par-5 17th with a 20-foot putt to go one-up on Woods and Watts. Watts birdied the same hole, but with the championship hanging precariously in the balance, he appeared to have lost it when his second shot at 18 wound up in a greenside bunker with an awful lie.
OMeara had already parred his way in and was waiting to see what Watts would do. Then Watts pulled off one of the great shots in golf history.
With the ball near the back of the bunker on a downhill lie, Watts could place only one foot in the sand. But he played it perfectly. The ball came out running, rolling up to the flag and dying eight inches away. For one heart-stopping moment, it looked as if it would go in for the victory.
It wasnt to be, however. Watts played better approach shots to the first two greens, but couldnt get a putt to drop. OMeara made one on the first hole, the 15th, and eventually that was all he needed to win the championship ' and his second major of the year.
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