Seve Ballesteros of Spain birdied the 16th hole with the help of a magnificent iron shot that hit the flagstick, and won his third British Open title by two strokes over Nick Price today.

It was match-play condition through the final 18 holes, with Price and Ballesteros playing together stroke for stroke until 16. And it wasn't over until Ballesteros scrambled from behind the 18th green with another incredible iron shot to save par with a two-inch putt.Ballesteros finished at 11-under par 273, with a final round of 6-under 65, the lowest 18 holes of the weather-plagued tournament.

The Spaniard won his first open here in 1979, and it was 16th-hole heroics that lifted him to victory that time, too.

Price, the Zimbawean who led after the second and third rounds, left a 12-foot birdie putt short and to the right on No. 16. he then bogeyed the final hole, tying for a last-ditch birdie, and finished at 69-275.

Nick Faldo of England, last year's winner, shot an even-par 71 and finished third at 5-under 279. Faldo, who turned 31 as the open had its first today finish ever, won last year with a round of 18 pars, but had three birdies and three bogeys this time.

Two Americans, Fred Couples and Gary Koch, finished at 3-under 281. Both shot 3-under 68s on the final day, with Couples 5-under before taking bogeys at the 17th and 18th.

Sandy Lyle of Scotland, the 1985 champion who started the day at 4-under par, also faded in the late going, taking a bogey-5 on No. 17 and a double-bogey 6 on the final hole to finish at 1-under 283, with a round of 74.

In 1979, the last time the open was played at the Royal Lytham and St. Annes Golf Club, Ballesteros was a 22-year-old who already had led the PGA European Tour in money winnings but still was looking for his first major victory.

He got it in the open that year, playing a shot out of a parking lot on the 16th hole for a birdie-3 and went on to victory.

The parking lot was out of bouds this year, but Ballesteros never came har it. Tied with Price at 10-under as they teed off for the 16th hole, his tee shot was right in the middle of the fairway, and his second shot almost was right in the middle of the hole.

It hit the stick and stopped dead. Ballesteros tapped in, and never looked back.

Price, who blew a three-shot lead with six to play in the 1982 open, didn't blow it this time.

He played a solid round of three birdies and an eagle-3 on the sixth hole. But he dropped a stroke on the second hole, and again two-putting from five feet on No. 14, and could not make them up through the tortuous holes that bring winners - and losers - back to the red-roofed clubhouse that is kissed by the breeze off the Irish Sea.

Price had a last chance to send the tournament, already streched to five days by rain, to a four-hole playoff when he sent his second shot on the 18th hole about 30 feet behind the pin, on the green.

Ballesteros drove the 18th into the fringe on the right of the fairway, then sent an iron shot across the fairway to the back of the green.

It looked as if Ballesteros might do what Price did six years ago. But the Spaniard is one of the best players in the game at making great shots out of poor position, and this was no exception.