Run of bogeys costs Willett maiden victory

A FINISH of three successive bogeys cost overnight leader Danny Willett his maiden European Tour victory at the Austrian Open yesterday.

Willett, the 22-year-old from Sheffield, had to settle for a share of third place on 14 under par, alongside Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell and Alexander Noren of Sweden.

Willett's late collapse meant Spain's Jose Manuel Lara won his second European Tour title and saved his tour card after getting the better of England's David Lynn in a play-off.

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Lara had missed nine successive cuts before finishing fourth at last week's KLM Open, and the confidence he gleaned from that performance carried him to an emotional triumph in Atzenbrugg.

The 33-year-old from Valencia surged up the leaderboard from eighth place overnight after recording 10 birdies and two bogeys in his eight-under-par round of 64.

That meant he finished tied on 17-under 271 for the tournament with Stoke-based Lynn, who carded 68, as the pair overtook overnight leader Willett.

The leading pair both returned to the 18th tee to decide the victor, and Lynn put himself in trouble on the par-four hole by finding rough on the right, behind a grass bank and almost in a bunker. From there he could only trundle the ball halfway to the green.

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Lara's tee shot was not perfect, finding light rough on the left, but he was able to find the putting surface with his second shot.

Lynn pitched his third shot to around 15 feet, but Lara then putted to four feet.

The pressure was on the 37-year-old Englishman and he failed to hole his testing putt, allowing Lara to step forward and find the heart of the cup to take victory with a par.

Lara won his only previous European Tour title outside of Europe, prevailing at the Hong Kong Open in November 2006.

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He celebrated with his caddie, embraced runner-up Lynn, and was then chased around the green by Champagne-spraying players including his fellow Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez.

Lara had plenty of reason to be satisfied, not least the cheque for 104,000 which was his reward.

He came into the tournament at a lowly 130th in the Race to Dubai, and was in danger of having to go to the qualifying school to earn his card for next season.

Victory solves that problem though, guaranteeing him a place on the tour for 2011.

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Lara started his week well with a 66 but then rounds of 71 and 70 indicated he may have to make a top-10 finish his main target.

However, he produced eight birdies in his opening 14 holes yesterday, and despite dropping shots at the 15th and 17th, made amends on each occasion at the next.

Lara admitted playing so well in Holland last week had raised his expectations, but he had not expected to do quite so well in Austria.

"I was expecting something good. I was hitting the ball really well last week," Lara said.

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"I wanted to win this tournament and the way I played today and this week, in my best dreams I never imagined that.

"Today I just came from behind and tried to work from the back and I did my job."

He added: "It's a great time for me.

"All the guys supporting me, the Spaniards, I'm really happy now."

Lara is now targeting a place at the end-of-season Dubai World Championship, although he will need to keep earning good money to nudge towards the required top-60 finish in the Race to Dubai.

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He said: "I've played the Volvo Masters (the forerunner to the Dubai World Championship) four times in my career, so I think Dubai's the next step.

"I saved my card today. I've been struggling in the last few years and I've missed too many cuts."

Further down the final leaderboard, Ireland's Damien McGrane and England's Chris Gane tied for sixth place on 13 under, after rounds of 65 and 70 respectively.

Argentina's Clodomiro Carranza took eighth place after a 70, while Spain's Luis Claverie and Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin tied for ninth after both went round in 69.

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Fifteen-year-old Austrian amateur Matthias Schwab started the day on eight under and finished with a 75 to drop to five under, and a share of 32nd, but that represented the best performance by a player of his age on the European Tour.

Britain's all-time great Laura Davies shot a final level-par round of 71 to win the Open de Espana Femenino and claim her 76th career title at Flamingos Golf in Benahavis on the Costa del Sol.

Davies finished at 11 under par for the tournament and secured a two-stroke win over Doncaster's Rebecca Hudson, Australian Frances Bondad and Christina Kim of the USA, just two weeks after her last victory in Austria.

The four-time major champion said it was one of the best wins of her life after she thought she had thrown it away by carding a quadruple bogey eight on the 13th hole.

Davies explained: "I thought I'd blown it, because last week I had the triple bogey on No 11 and I did blow it, so it works on your mind a bit."