It was the last win he would ever post in the record books. A plane accident in October of 1999 took his life. For a brief shining moment, though, Payne Stewart was the name on everyones lips.
Phil Mickelson was the unlucky one on Sunday. He had grabbed the lead at the 10th hole and either led or was tied until suffering his only bogey on the par-4 16th.
I thought I had the tournament in control at the 16th, said Mickelson, who played carrying a beeper so he could dash off if his expecting wife had their baby. I was thinking my competition was Tiger Woods or Vijay Singh.
Woods and Singh joined Mickelson and Stewart in the Sunday battle, both dropping out late to finally allow the two survivors the stage. Woods missed a short three-footer at the 11th and made bogey, then did the same at the 17th. He had pulled to within one of the lead with a 25-footer at the 16th, but those two costly short misses meant he would have to wait for his first Open victory.
Singh got within a stroke on the final nine, but bogeyed the 16th to fall two back and never recovered.
The 42-year-old Stewart hit only seven fairways the last day with the driver, but he putted superbly. He had bogeyed the 10th and 12th and fell out of the lead, allowing Mickelson to take over.
Stewart one-putted the last three greens. A 25-footer saved par at 16 when he was about to make bogey and fall out of the lead with Mickelson. Mickelson missed an eight-foot par putt. If Stewart had missed and he made, Mickelson would have led by two. As it was, the twosome came out of the hole even when Stewart made and Mickelson missed.
Stewart took the lead on the par-3 17th when he crashed a 6-iron to four feet and made the putt for birdie. Mickelson also hit an excellent shot, nailing an 8-iron to eight feet, but he missed the birdie again to drop behind.
At the uphill, 446-yard finishing hole, Stewart popped a weak drive into the rough, while Mickelson was safely in the fairway. Stewart hit his second shot 73 yards short, while Mickelson got his second onto the green 25 feet away.
Stewart wedged on to 20 feet for his third, while Mickelson missed his putt. Stewart then dropped his winner.
I cant describe the feeling that was going through my body when I looked up and saw that putt going into the hole, said Stewart.
Five months later, he was dead.
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