Fisher bogeyed the par-3 4th to fall back to four-under. Trying to be cautious on the long par-4 5th, he played an iron off the tee. But more-experienced heads opined that he would have been better with a driver, keeping it low in the fierce cross-wind. And so it proved – his iron flew high and was caught by the breeze which pushed it far into the rough. He could barely move his first attempt; his second hack crossed the fairway and ended up in the rough on the other side in an even worse lie than the first one.
Sergio Garcia is beset by flying grass and photographers – he would go on to bogey the 16th on Day 1. [China.org.cn]
He eventually made his way to the hole in a quadruple-bogey eight – five strokes lost in two holes. The numerical truth was that he was still at level-par for the tournament, still only two strokes behind, still indeed in exactly the same position as he had started the day - and most importantly, still in contention. But his morale had taken such a hammering that he would never recover. Although he fought gamely, he finished in a tie for 13th at two-over.
Now Lee Westwood stepped up to the mark. He had found himself in similar trouble to Fisher off the tee at 5, but he learned from his partner's lessons, playing carefully out of the rough and taking his bogey. He birdied the par-3 6th, and then eagled on the par-5 7th. Again an Englishman held the lead, this time by two strokes over Watson and Goggin.
For the next hour the three leaders fenced and feinted. The occasional birdie was followed by the occasional bogey. By the 13th hole all were together on three-under and heading for the home straight. Then events took another twist.
On the 14th, Westwood was short with his approach and still on the fairway, while playing partner Fisher was bunkered beside the green. Westwood played an extraordinary bouncing putt from thirty yards and knocked it dead; Fisher knocked his sand shot to a similar distance. Both saved par.
Following behind, Watson and Goggin found themselves in identical predicaments, Watson short of the green and Goggin bunkered. But neither could produce an up-and-down, and both dropped a stroke.
English hearts pounded – Westwood leading by one. Was this the decisive break?
Liang Wenchong – the hopes of the Chinese star were ruined by a broken 3-wood on Day 1. [China.org.cn]
But the lead lasted only as long as the next hole - the short par-3 15th. Westwood was long and into the deep pot bunker behind the green. It was impossible to get close to the pin, and he could not make his putt. Goggin followed and did exactly the same. Watson parred.
Watson and Westwood together at two-under, and the scoreboard showed that Stewart Cink had joined them.
More heartbreak for Westwood fans followed on 16. Again he was long, again he could not produce the up-and-down, again he dropped a stroke, again Watson behind him parred.
Watson and Cink tied for the lead on two-under, Westwood one behind. But Westwood and Watson still had the par-5 17th to come – an excellent birdie opportunity.
Westwood produced two great shots to give himself a chance of an eagle, but could only make birdie. Behind him, Watson was even closer with his second, but just off the back of the green. He too made birdie.
Watson in the lead on three-under, Westwood and Cink tied on two-under.
Then came the worst heartbreak of all for the Westwood fans. A par on 18 would have been enough to take him into the playoff. But he thought he needed a birdie, and he bunkered his tee-shot. Although he produced a magnificent steepling escape that almost made the green, he could not get down in two, and finished with a bogey for one-under. Behind him, Watson made that fateful 72nd hole bogey, and the final act of the drama took place over the playoff holes.
The 138th Open Championship was a tribute to everything that is best about links golf: testing, changeable conditions over a wonderfully difficult course that created heroes, made fortunes, broke hearts and brought out the best from the best payers in the world. Last word to the victor, Stewart Cink:
"I'm engulfed by the joy, for sure. I can understand, though, the mystique that came close to developing here, and the story that was almost told. But in the end, you know, it's a tournament to see who lasts the longest. It's a survival test, a real survival test, and I came out on top. I don't know what else to say."
Open Champion and winner of The Claret Jug: Stewart Cink (USA)
Runner-up and winner of The Siver Salver: Tom Watson (USA)
Winner of the Silver Medal for Best Amateur: Matteo Manassero (Italy)
278 – Tom Watson (USA); Stewart Cink (USA)
Stewart Cink won the four-hole playoff by seven strokes
279 – Chris Wood (Eng); Lee Westwood (Eng)
280 – Luke Donald (Eng), Retief Goosen (RSA); Mathew Goggin (Aus)
281 – Soren Hansen (Den); Justin Leonard (USA); Ernie Els (RSA); Thomas Aiken (RSA); Richard Johnson (Swe)
Eleven players on 282