| Tiger Woods lines up a putt on the second hole at Royal St George’s in Sandwich on Sunday. (Reuters)
Sandwich: American Tour rookie Ben Curtis pulled off one of the biggest shock wins in Open history here on Sunday when Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn collapsed over the closing holes.
Bjorn looked set to win when he was two shots clear and only three holes to play but disaster at the par-three 16th saw the Dane suddenly in a tie and with two of the most difficult closing holes in the Open to come.
Curtis was sinking a ten-foot par putt on the 18th as Bjorn self-destructed. It was only when he reached the scorer’s hut that he discovered the Claret Jug was almost in his grasp.
World No. 1 Tiger Woods, former Masters and USPGA champion Vijai Singh and Davis Love all challenged Curtis but all three came up short.
The 26-year-old Curtis, winless on the US Tour, showed no fear of the impressive company he was mixing with. He began with a birdie to go level par for the championship and by the time he walked to the 12th tee he was five-under and two clear of the star-studded field chasing after him.
Suddenly Curtis looked to be out of the championship as he began leaking shots, carding four bogeys over the final seven holes. As Curtis began slipping Bjorn looked poised to make his Major breakthrough.
But then came the 16th.
Standing in the greenside bunker, Bjorn blasted out and then stood in horror as the ball hit the green but caught the slope and rolled back into the bunker.
The 26-year-old tried again. Again the ball did not clear the slope and rolled back into the bunker. The third attempt succeeded, but his double bogey dropped the Dane into a tie.
Another bogey on the 17th and suddenly Bjorn was needing a near impossible birdie on the 18th just to force a playoff. He couldn’t and Curtis, playing in his first ever Major, found himself going into golf's history book and £ 700,000 richer.
Earlier, Woods had moved from one-over par to two-under and was closing in on the leaders.
Singh, playing with Woods, got himself to three-under and at one time had a share of the lead but lost a shot at the eighth when he drove into deep rough and then hit his second into deeper trouble.
Thrilling the crowd was 46-year-old Nick Faldo who reached the 15th tee four-under for the day and level par for the tournament. Sergio Garcia found himself out of the party as he slipped to two-over par and starting to run out of holes.
Defending champion Ernie Els, who had a slender outside chance of threatening, never got going and finished with a one-over 72.
Phil Mickelson never looked like losing his tag of being the best player never to have won a Major as he crashed from six-over to 13-over, thanks to a grim 78.
Davis Love, who started only one shot back from Bjorn, got off to the worst possible start when he ran up three bogeys in the opening four holes to put him well down the leaderboard.
Woods dropped his second shot in three holes to slip four strokes behind Curtis. Woods found heavy rough with his second shot at the par-four 10th hole and failed to get up and down in two. He had missed a five-foot par putt on the eighth green to record his first bogey of the round.
Woods had been three under for his round after holing a short putt to birdie the par-five seventh following birdies at the long fourth hole and the par-four fifth. He started his round conservatively by taking an iron on the first tee to avoid the problems he suffered with his first shot of the tournament.
He found the middle of the fairway to ensure no repeat of the lost ball and triple-bogey seven that got his bid for a second Open title off to such a poor start.
Woods, wearing his trademark final-round maroon shirt, safely found the green with his second shot and made par.
The 27-year-old also had to settle for par at the second hole after narrowly missing a 12-foot birdie putt and he completed another routine par at the third. (AFP)