LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England -- Darren Clarke's third-place tie Sunday wasn't his best finish in the British Open, but it may have been his best chance to win golf's oldest major.
He went to the 17th at 8-under for the tournament, well within reach of eventual winner David Duval, before hitting a severe hook off the tee that landed in a fairway bunker and produced a double-bogey 6.
"I hit my tee shot too well and ran out of fairway," Clarke said. "I tried to hit a low, hard draw and hit it too far."
Did it cost him the tournament?
"No. It cost me the opportunity," replied Clarke, who finished second in the Open in 1997.
Clarke seemed to take it all in stride, puffing away before and after the round on his trademark cigar.
"It's just one of those sort of things," he said. "What do you want me to do, break all the clubs in my bag? What else can I do?"
John Paramor, the PGA European Tour's chief referee, was the man who called the two-stroke penalty on Ian Woosnam when the Welshman discovered he had 15 clubs in his bag instead of the allowed 14.
Would Woosnam have been discovered if he hadn't turned himself in?
"I don't know," Paramor said. "Almost certainly you're going to find it eventually, aren't you? These guys do it all the time. It's a self-regulating game. You have to remember that. The guys referee themselves. We're just there to help if they get into problems."
Paramor wouldn't comment on whether Woosnam's caddie, Miles Byrne, should have lost his job.
"I didn't think it was prudent to ask," he said.
Ernie Els, who had to settle for a share of third place, said his putting had been the main obstacle to his bid for victory.
The easy-swinging Els produced a closing 69 to tie for third at 6-under 278, four behind champion David Duval and one in back of Niclas Fasth. Also at 6-under were Darren Clarke, Miguel Angel
Jimenez, Ian Woosnam, Billy Mayfair and Bernhard Langer.
Els, a two-time U.S. Open champion, ended a lowly 34th on the putting statistics over the four days, and he felt this had been the difference between third spot and a first British Open victory.
"I had a lot of chances out there today and I hit it as good as when I've won," he said. "I was just getting in my own way a bit.
"I hit the ball as well as anything and I probably lead the greens in regulation for the week. But I just couldn't get the ball into the hole."
Kevin Sutherland had to birdie the 18th hole on Friday just to make the cut. After rounds of 68 and 67 on the weekend, he earned his first top-10 finish in a major with a tie for ninth.
Paul Curry had a string of 36 pars end with a bogey on the eighth hole.
Jesper Parnevik outdid himself on Sunday, sporting black stovepipe trousers with white vertical stripes.
British bookmakers had it right on Sunday. William Hill and others had Duval the 3-1 favorite to win, with Colin Montgomerie No. 2 at 9-2. Montgomerie shot 1-over 72 and tied for 13th place after leading for the first two rounds.
Pierre Fulke, who was one off the lead after the second round and is guaranteed a place on the
Ryder Cup team, slumped to an 83 after a 72 on Saturday. He opened 69-67.