Maybe now, Mark O'Meara will invite Ian Baker-Finch over to his house to share a drink out of the Auld Claret Jug.

If he does, he might do it while wearing his green jacket.The confidence O'Meara gained only three months ago in winning the Masters proved crucial on a rainy day at Royal Birkdale, where sun broke through Sunday just in time for him to hoist the British Open trophy and give it a kiss on the 18th green.

O'Meara survived the shifting weather off the Irish Sea to shoot even par for 72 holes, only to applaud politely when Brian Watts hit a miracle shot out of a bunker on No. 18 to force a four-hole playoff.

O'Meara then calmed the nerves that had also popped up at Augusta for a steady performance against a player who had never been in contention in a major before.

At 41, O'Meara became the oldest player to win two major titles in one year and the first to win the Open and Masters in the same year since Nick Faldo in 1990.

"It's just an incredible feeling," O'Meara said. "If I could put my finger on it, I would have done it earlier in my career. It's just not that easy."

In 1991, Baker-Finch won at Birkdale playing alongside O'Meara, then invited his friend to drink out of the jug with him. On Sunday, it was O'Meara's turn, as he made his way through light rain with a final round of 68 that appeared to be all he would need.

When it wasn't, he got up from his perch on the grass surrounding the 18th green, kissed his wife, and went out to birdie the first playoff hole and par the next three to win his first jug.

After beginning the year as not even the best golfer in a neighborhood that includes Tiger Woods, O'Meara can now legitimately claim to be the best in the world.

"Even though I'm nervous, even though certain things have transpired throughout my career, I realize that more times than not that I've been able to finish off the deal and get the job done," O'Meara said.

He got the job done at Birkdale, just as he did at Augusta. This time, he got it done because he was able to master conditions that ranged from howling winds and rain to bright sunshine over four days.

And, in the end, he got it done because Watts could not hit two shots of a lifetime out of bunkers fronting the 18th green, the second in the playoff.

Woods almost made it to the playoff, too, roaring from behind with birdies on three of the last four holes. He closed with a 66, tied with Scotland's Raymond Russell for the best round of the day, to finish at 281.

Four players tied for fourth at 282: Russell, Jim Furyk, Jesper Parnevik and the 17-year-old amateur Justin Rose of England. It was the best showing by an amateur since Frank Stranahan in 1953.

Rose thrilled his countrymen by staying in the tournament until the end, capping his performance with a 45-yard chip-in on No. 18 that brought a thunderous ovation from the crowd.

The last hole also proved to be the key for Watts.

After forcing the playoff with a spectacular chip shot from a greenside bunker to within tap-in distance, Watts didn't come close when he tried to hole a shot out of an adjacent trap in a desperate bid to keep the match going.

Watts, who held a two-shot lead entering the final round, played solidly, shooting an even-par 70 that included a crucial 18-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole.

When the playoff began, though, experience took over. Watts has won 10 times in Japan, but never completed a successful year on the PGA Tour. O'Meara is the Masters champion and has a game honed by regular practice matches with his friend Woods.

If Woods hadn't run out of holes in front of him, he might have joined him for this little match, too.

Woods sank a 30-foot chip on the 17th hole that got his fist pumping, then followed it with a 30-foot birdie putt on 18 to get to 1-over and a tie for the lead. When O'Meara birdied 17 behind him and Watts followed suit, Woods' chances were over.

"I'm very happy I shot 66, but going out I knew that probably even par was going to be the number and I just didn't do it," he said.

Woods had to be satisfied that he was in contention in a major for the first time since winning the 1997 Masters. Middle rounds of 73-77 were his undoing in a tournament he opened with a 65 and closed with a 66.

If he had been able to contend with the winds Friday and Saturday a bit better, it might be Woods with two majors instead of O'Meara. At the beginning of the year, few in golf would have predicted that O'Meara would have more majors than his friend.

Now, he's got a chance in the PGA Championship next month outside Seattle to be the first player to win three majors in a year since Ben Hogan won the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open in 1953.