Levet's 63 earns Scottish victory


LUSS, Scotland --Thomas Levet matched the lowest round of his career Sunday, an 8-under 63 that gave him a one-shot victory in the Scottish Open and put his vacation plans on hold.

Along with his first victory in three years, the Frenchman earned an unlikely trip to the British Open.

"It is something enormous,'' Levet said after a 29 on the back nine. "I don't think I will sleep tonight. Too much adrenaline. Too much happiness.''

With five players jockeying for the lead on a cool, gray afternoon along the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond, the 35-year-old Levet was not even in the picture. All that changed with a birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie run that started on the par-3 11th, and an approach into 3 feet on the final hole for the birdie that mattered.

One spot at the British Open was available to the top finisher at Loch Lomond not already eligible. Levet, who finished at 15-under 269, got his third European tour victory and another shot at the claret jug that eluded him two years ago when he lost in a five-hole playoff to Ernie Els.

"I don't have any clothes,'' Levet said. "My wife was planning a holiday next week. She'll go to Troon instead.''

Michael Campbell was poised to win until trying to drive the green on the 345-yard 14th and going into the creek, making bogey, then dropping another stroke by blading a bunker shot over the green on the 15th.

He still had a chance to tie on the final hole, but his 18-foot birdie just turned away. Campbell finished with a 70.

Defending champion Ernie Els also was in the hunt, but he bogeyed the 12th and missed an 8-foot birdie putt on the par-5 13th that robbed him of momentum. Still, he closed with a 68 and tied for third with David Howell (70), putting him a good frame of mind heading to Royal Troon.

"I hit a couple of bad ones today, but I know what I have to work on for next week,'' Els said. "At least I take a little bit of form there.''

The real disappointment belonged to Gregory Havret of France and Marcus Fraser of Australia. Neither was eligible for the British Open, and the final round appeared to be a duel to see who would get the spot at Troon.

Both were leading at 15 under. Both crashed on the back nine.

Fraser couldn't keep the ball in the fairway and made bogeys on the 10th and 12th.

"A few nerves and a few butterflies, and I just didn't stand up to it,'' said Fraser, who shot 73.

Havret's hopes ended on the 13th when he went from bunker to bunker, then over the green and missed a 3-foot putt to take double bogey. He wound up with a 74, playing the par 5s in 3 over.

"I am tired of learning,'' Havret said. "I need to start doing what Mr. Levet is doing. I am so happy for him. He did say he felt he was close to doing something great, and I think he did that.''

Levet also shot a 63 in the 1994 Volvo German Open. At least this one came with a trophy, not to mention the unexpected trip to Royal Troon.

He thought his chances were over when he failed to make it through an international qualifier last month at Sunningdale. And there was no reason to believe he had a chance at Loch Lomond.

"The last two weeks I have played awful,'' he said. "I was ready to pack in everything and go home.''

It all changed on the back nine Sunday, when he took only one putt on the final eight holes. No shot was bigger than the 14th. With his ball buried in the rough, he had to go over a mound to a green that sloped severely away from him.

"It's one of those 'Hallelujah' shots. You hit it and pray for it and see what happens,'' Levet said.

His flop shot landed softly and rolled just 3 feet by, a tap-in for birdie that gave him a share of the lead. Levet thrust his fist when he holed his birdie putt on the final hole, believing it at least got him to the British Open.

An hour later, it brought him the Scottish Open, his first victory since winning the 2001 British Masters in a playoff.

Levet earned 366,659 British pounds ($681,877), the largest payoff of his career.

Tom Lehman, who won the '97 Scottish Open at Loch Lomond, couldn't get anything going and closed with a 71 to finish five shots behind.