GULLANE, Scotland, July 22 (UPI) -- Ernie Els, who let the tournament slip through his fingers in regulation, finally ended the first four-man playoff in major championship history with a four-foot par putt on the first hole of sudden death Sunday to win the 131st British Open.
With an avowed goal of capturing the career Grand Slam, Els reached the halfway point in his quest by outlasting a wave of would-be winners on one of the more bizarre days in the history of golf's oldest tournament.
Els began the day with a two-shot lead and was still two shots in front as he stepped to the 14th tee, but he let the advantage get away. He wound up in a four-hole playoff with France's Thomas Levet and Australians Stuart Appleby and Steve Elkington.
After those four holes, Els and Levet were the only ones remaining after playing them in even par. Levet had a chance to win on the fourth and final hole of the playoff, but drove into the rough at the 18th and wound up having to make a five-footer for bogey. Elkington and Appleby finished at 1-over after the four holes, both making bogey on the last of them, leaving Els and Levet to take part in the first sudden death ever at the British Open.
They played the 18th hole as the first of sudden death and Levet, just as he did moments before, drove poorly. His tee shot wound up in a bunker left of the fairway, from where he could only advance the ball to within 130 yards of the green. His third shot wound up 30 feet from the hole.
Els, meanwhile, drove perfectly but then hit a 5-iron into the left greenside bunker. His explosion was almost perfect, trickling to within four feet of the hole. Levet, trying to become the second Frenchman to win this tournament and the first to do so in 95 years, charged his first putt six feet past the hole and then made the one coming back for bogey.
Els, then, had to make his four-footer to win and it was perfect.
Ranked third in the world, Els added the British Open to his two U.S. Open titles won in 1994 and 1997.
He and the other participants in the playoff finished 72 holes at 6-under 278 for four rounds over the Muirfield links. Els closed with a 1-under 70 while Appleby fired a 65 and both Levet and Elkington had a 66.
Armstrong increases overall lead
LE MONT VENTOUX, France, July 22 (UPI) -- France's Richard Virenque captured the 14th stage at the Tour de France and American Lance Armstrong increased the overall lead to keep the yellow jersey for a fourth straight day on Sunday.
Virenque covered the 137-mile ride that ended with a climb up Mount Ventoux in 5 hours, 43 minutes and 26 seconds. The Frenchman finished 1 minute, 58 seconds in front of Russian Alexandre Botcharov and moved into 10th place in the overall standings.
It was likely a satisfying win for Virenque, who missed last year's Tour while serving a nine-month suspension due to drug use. It was the fifth overall stage win in his career.
Armstrong finished third in Sunday's stage, but increased his overall lead over Spaniard Joseba Beloki to 4 minutes, 21 seconds.
The three-time defending champion at the world's most famous cycling race, Armstrong captured his 14th career stage win Friday.
Though the finish in Paris remains seven days away, Armstrong is in prime position to ascend to the upper echelon of cycling royalty. He is looking to join France's Jacques Anquetil (1961-64) and Bernard Hinault (1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1985), Belgium's Eddie Merckx (1969-72) and Spain's Miguel Indurain (1991-95) as the only cyclists to win the race more than three times.
Yankees rally past Red Sox
NEW YORK, July 21 (UPI) -- On a day when Jeff Weaver tied a franchise record by alllowing five home runs, the New York Yankees still found a way to beat the Boston Red Sox, rallying for two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday to post a wild 9-8 victory.
Bernie Williams trotted home with the winning run when Ugueth Urbina (0-5) walked Jorge Posada with the bases loaded, but it was a costly fielding error by right fielder Trot Nixon that triggered the rally.
New York won the final two games of the series to open a four-game lead over Boston in the AL East. In their last five victories, the Yankees have rallied from a deficit to win in their final at bat.
Jason Giambi started the ninth with a patient at bat, working the count full before reaching on a check-swing single inside the left field line, the 10th pitch of the confrontation.
Williams grounded an 0-2 pitch into right field for another single. Nixon charged the ball, but it scooted under his glove, allowing pinch runner Enrique Wilson to score from first and Williams to race all the way to third.
After Robin Ventura and Raul Mondesi were intentionally walked, Posada also made Urbina work. After falling behind 1-2, Posada fouled off three straight pitches. The All-Star eventually walked on the 10th offering from Urbina, who threw 38 pitches in the frame.
Mike Stanton (4-1) tossed two scoreless in relief of Weaver to get the victory.
Other American League results: Tampa Bay 7, Toronto 5; Chicago 8, Baltimore 7; Minnesota 4, Detroit 2; Kansas City 13, Cleveland 12 in 10 innings; Texas 7, Oakland 3 in 12 innings; anaheim 7, Seattle 5.
Braves win sixth straight
PHILADELPHIA, July 22 (UPI) -- Kevin Millwood worked eight innings to win his seventh straight decision and Gary Sheffield homered as the red-hot Atlanta Braves completed a three-game sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies Sunday with a 2-1 victory.
Starting to look more like the pitcher that won a career-high 18 games in 1999, Millwood (9-5) limited the Phillies to one run and four hits, walking two and striking out six.
Just 13-20 since 1999 entering this season, Millwood carried a no-hitter into the sixth before allowing a leadoff single to Marlon Anderson. The righthander departed after throwing 104 pitches as he improved to 7-0 since May 18.
With major league saves leader John Smoltz given the day off, the Braves nearly squandered the lead in the ninth.
Kerry Ligtenberg went to a full count on Jimmy Rollins, who hit a line drive off the glove of first baseman Wes Helms for a two-base error. Ligtenberg got a big out, striking out Bobby Abreu, before being relieved by rookie Tim Spooneybarger.
Sheffield hit a solo homer in the first for the Braves, who extended their winning streak to six games while improving to 45-14 in their last 59 games.
Other National League results: Cincinnati 9, New York 1; St. Louis 8, Pittsburgh 4; Chicago 3, Houston 2; Colorado 6, Milwaukee 4; Florida 4, Montreal 0; San Diego 11, Arizona 9; San Francisco 6, Los Angeles 4.
Schumacher wins another championship
MAGNY-COURSE, France, July 22 (UPI) -- Michael Schumacher of Germany clinched a record-tying fifth Formula One world championship Sunday by taking the checkered flag at the French Grand Prix.
The Ferrari driver secured his third straight title in a record time with six grand prixs to spare in the 2002 season. He equalled former Ferrari driver Juan Manuel Fangio of Argentina with five championships.
Schumacher also won two titles with the Italian team Benetton in 1994-95. Fangio captured his first title in 1951 with Alfa Romeo and four in a row from 1954-57 with four other teams, including Ferrari.
A mistake by first-year McLaren driver Kimi Raikkonen of Finland in the closing laps handed Schumacher his eighth victory of the year and 61st of his career. Raikkonen appeared headed for the checkered flag but a wide maneuver on lap 68 which cost him the lead and race.
In Loudon, N.H., Ward Burton's season-long struggles turned around when a fuel gamble and late pass of Matt Kenseth gave him the victory at the NASCAR New England 300.
Burton ran the final 100 miles on one tank of fuel. He conserved gas with the help of several late cautions, including the final one with 12 laps to go.
On the restart, Burton overtook Kenseth, whose Ford Taurus apparently developed a flat tire just before the green flag dropped. Kenseth quickly faded and finished 33rd, one lap down.