GOLF: Claydon putts his way to victory at last

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RUSSELL CLAYDON won his first European Tour title after nine years as a professional in Munich yesterday. Claydon, who admits to weighing 16- stone plus, sank eight single putts in his last 11 holes and nine in all to finish with a 68 to finish 18 under and take the BMW International Open by one shot from Jamie Spence.

The 32-year-old has been second five times in European Tour events and was also runner-up in the Australian Masters in 1989 when still an amateur, but he insisted that it had never concerned him. "I've never bothered about finishing second," he said, "I try my hardest every week and if you come second you have probably beaten about 155 golfers, which isn't bad. So it was never a problem for me."

Claydon went out last with the home favourite, Bernard Langer, who finished joint fourth, and said it was a pleasure to play with the German. "Bernard is the best of all the best players you can play with," he said. "He knows how to deal with a German crowd, his manners are impeccable and he is very helpful. He made it easy for me.

"The crowd were very fair. They all wanted Bernard to win but they cheered all my good putts and I had quite a few today."

Claydon was lying fifth after he bogeyed the seventh but then he charged magnificently for home. He got up and down for pars at the eighth, 10th and 13th and sank five birdie putts at the ninth, 11th, 12th, 15th and 17th holes.

Spence was already in the clubhouse on 271 when Claydon came to the final par-five hole and he laid up before hitting his third shot some 12 feet from the pin for a two-putt winning finish.

Spence had not seemed in the running after 14 holes but birdied three of his last four holes. He then watched Claydon make his five at the last and said: "I obviously wanted to win but I'm not too disappointed. Russell is a great talent, if only he would realise it.

Despite all his single putts, Claydon thought the key to his victory was at the 472-yard 10th hole. "I hit a terrible drive and thought I had finished in a bush," he said.

"But when I got to the ball it wasn't in the bush and I managed to get my second shot near to the green and then got up and down for a par four. It felt like an eagle when I had been thinking I might make a double-bogey six.

"You get moments in a round when things go your way and this was one of them."

Scotland's Andrew Coltart is 11 shots behind the leader, David Duval, in the World Series at Akron, Ohio. In the third round he shot a one-under- par 70 for a two-over-par total of 212. Duval leads by one stroke from John Cook while the best-placed European, Sweden's Jesper Parnevik gave himself an outside chance of winning with a 66 to be six shots off the lead.

Payne Stewart regained the lead in the Greater Vancouver Open in Surrey, Canada, with a six-under-par 65 to go one stroke ahead after three rounds.