Amazing what a birdie on the 72nd hole could do for a man who never was seriously in contention to win the 134th British Open. But Fred Couples will leave town having matched his best career performance in the oldest major championship. His second 68 of the week earned him a tie for third place with Jose Maria Olazabal at 8-under 280.
"I had a great day," said Couples, who tweaked his chronically sore back in the middle of his second round Friday but managed to get through the rest of the week without any major problems. "I played very well. It could have been a heck of a lot better. I birdied the first hole, had one lip out at three and at nine, a putt for eagle spun out of the hole. With a little luck, I could have been a couple better and had a better finish."
Couples, who was playing in his 15th Open, first came to St. Andrews 21 years ago, tying for fourth place in the 1984 Open. This was his ninth top ten performance in one of his favorite events of the year, and his third-place finish will earn him a spot in the field next year at Royal Liverpool.
"Yesterday I putted horribly in the wind," Couples said of his third-round 73, his highest score of the tournament. "Today was a little better and I holed a few putts. But I'm done now. Standing here, my feet are ready to break off. I've been playing a lot recently. I knew I would enjoy this week, but not this well. I just enjoy the course and felt like I could get the ball on the green from anywhere."
Faldo's Memorable Finish
Nick Faldo, a three-time British Open winner and six-time major champion, finished strong, making birdie at the 17th "Road Hole," then holing out a 70-foot eagle putt from the "Valley of Sin" on the 18th for a 3-2 finish, a final-round 69 and a tie for 11th place with a 6-under 282.
Faldo, who plays a limited schedule when not working as an analyst for ABC television, said the standing ovation he got as he walked down the 18th fairway brought back some memories.
"Sure, you walk up 18, at least I've got a great image of walking up here and winning the Open here" in 1990, he said. Asked about his final eagle putt at 18, he said: "Crazy thing is, I walked around the green and said I fancied this. I haven't fancied a putt all week.
"I don't know how that happens. How did I walk up and feel so good, hit the thing so sweet and knock it right in the middle? It doesn't make sense. Twenty-three yards. You make a three on 17 once every decade. But a 3-2 finish will never happen again in my life, I can guarantee that one."
John Daly had no doubts about what caused his 1-over 73 Sunday and his 5-under 283.
"I had a great opportunity to finish in the top 10 if I'd made some putts," he said. "The way the Royal and Ancient put the pins this week, it made the course tougher. I've seen pins this week I've never dreamed of or even seen."
Saltman Wins Silver
Lloyd Saltman, a 20-year-old Scot and member of the European Walker Cup team, birdied the final hole and won the silver medal for low amateur by a shot over Eric Ramsey. "With the scoreboards out there, we all knew what was going on," Saltman said. "The crowd was cheering me on. It was a wonderful experience. . . . I would have paid money to play in this. It's just been a great experience."