Golf: Confident Garcia gains first victory

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The Independent Online
IT TOOK Tiger Woods, three years ago, just five tournaments to win for the first time as a professional. That Sergio Garcia allowed himself one more event before claiming his maiden title as a pro is of little consequence compared with the commanding nature of his win in the Murphy's Irish Open.

At 19 years and six months, the Spaniard was more than a year younger than Woods and became the first teenage winner on the European Tour since Paul Way won the Dutch Open in 1982. A final round of 64 gave Garcia, at 16 under, a three-stroke win over Angel Cabrera. A year ago, as an amateur, Garcia had closed with an 81.

The victory earned Garcia pounds 166,660 and brought him an exemption on the European Tour for the next two years. It also put him in line for an exemption into the Open at Carnoustie from a qualifying table that closes next weekend after the tournament at Loch Lomond.

What else it does is move the Spaniard up to 18th in the Ryder Cup standings. He might have to win again to qualify automatically and while that is far from unlikely, the European captain, Mark James, should need little convincing that Garcia should have one of his two wild cards.

"They say the first one is most difficult to win," Garcia said, "but let's see if I can continue and win again. I was so confident I was just trying to hit it as close as I could and hole the putts. It was a great match with Angel. He played terribly well over the back nine and was always hanging in there."

Garcia teed off in the final pairing, with Cabrera, for the first and surely not the last time. He birdied the first to draw one behind and could not have looked more at home in the situation. A dropped shot at the fifth was swiftly dismissed as he birdied the next two holes. He looked as if he expected nothing less.

By journeying to the turn in 33, Garcia took a one-stroke lead as Cabrera bogeyed the ninth. Both parred the 10th but then Garcia exhibited the qualities of the champion he is. The par-five 11th succumbed to a two- putt birdie, although the Argentinian also had a four.

At the next, a par-three, however, Garcia rolled in a 40-footer for a two. The 13th, a 471-yard par-four, is the hardest hole on the course and one of the hardest on Tour. Not to Garcia. He found the semi-rough but then put his second on the green and holed from 25 feet for another birdie to go three ahead.

His work was not done. Cabrera responded with birdies at the next two, the one at the 15th especially pleasing for the pursuer. Garcia was in the rough to the left of a fairway but, showing a touch of the artistry of a Ballesteros or an Olazabal, put his recovery to four feet.

He was rightly pleased with himself, and rightly displeased after missing the putt and failing to match his opponent's three. An up-and-down birdie at the 16th re-established a two-shot cushion and then it was a matter of avoiding the water at the last two. More than that, an imperious approach at the 18th gave him a six-footer for his eighth birdie of the round.

Garcia's countryman, Miguel Angel Martin, equalled the course record of 62 and had a hole-in-one at the eighth to finish at eight under, one in front of Lee Westwood and Colin Montgomerie. The Scot lost his proud record of not being beaten over 72 holes at Druids Glen with a last round of 71.

Westwood, who has returned to his old coach, Pete Cowen, after seeking a number of second opinions, was much encouraged by his 68 despite dropping three shots in the last two holes after getting to 10 under. "That's the best I've played for 10 months," he said. "I was concerned about my game three weeks ago but I have now learned a lot more about my swing."

MURPHY'S IRISH OPEN (Druids Glen, Co. Wicklow; GB or Irl unless stated): 268 S Garcia (Sp) 69 68 67 64. 271 A Cabrera (Arg) 70 66 66 69. 273 J Moseley (Aus) 66 69 69 69. 276 M A Martin (Sp) 71 71 72 62; T Bjorn (Den) 70 66 71 69; E Darcy 68 67 71 70. 277 L Westwood 70 68 71 68; S Struver (Ger) 69 70 70 68; M Mackenzie 72 70 67 68; C Montgomerie 68 67 71 71. 278 G Orr 68 71 72 67; P Price 67 65 75 71. 279 E Canonica (It) 68 72 72 67; C Hainline (US) 65 72 72 70. 280 J Mellor 68 71 73 68; R Claydon 69 69 71 71; D Howell 69 73 67 71; R Gonzalez (Arg) 71 69 68 72; S Leaney (Aus) 70 71 67 72; A Cejka (Ger) 67 68 72 73. 281 M A Jimenez (Sp) 68 72 75 66; P Lawrie 72 69 70 70; D Carter 70 70 70 71 P O'Malley (Aus) 70 66 72 73. 282 R Wessels (SA) 67 73 71 71; A McLardy (SA) 69 67 72 74; S Hansen (Den) 69 63 76 74. 283 J Payne 68 73 70 72; P Affleck 69 73 69 72; J Singh (India) 66 69 75 73; M Campbell (NZ) 68 69 68 78. 284 S Kjeldsen (Den) 70 70 75 69; B Langer (Ger) 71 67 76 70; I Garrido (Sp) 70 71 71 72. 285 M Scarpa (It) 67 72 77 69; S Webster 72 68 70 75; P Quirici (Swit) 69 72 69 75; M Jonzon (Swe) 66 75 69 75; I Garbutt 72 68 69 76. 286 D Gilford 69 71 76 70; C Rocca (It) 72 70 74 70; S Grappasonni (It) 69 71 75 71; P Broadhurst 70 71 74 71; P Eales 71 68 75 72; J-F Remesy (Fr) 69 72 71 74; G Turner (NZ) 69 68 72 77. 287 P Baker 70 68 78 71; A Hansen (Den) 67 73 75 72; W Riley (Aus) 71 69 74 73 F Tarnaud (Fr) 72 70 71 74. 288 J Haeggman (Swe) 69 73 76 70; B Davis 70 70 75 73; J Lomas 72 70 73 73; B Lane 74 67 74 73; D Cooper 66 74 73 75. 289 P Lonard (Aus) 71 67 75 76. 291 S Gallacher 72 70 78 71; M Farry (Fr) 70 71 74 66; D Park 70 72 71 78. 292 R McFarlane 70 69 79 74; P Sjoland (Swe) 69 70 79 74; A Binaghi (It) 68 73 77 74; T Levet (Fr) 71 71 71 79. 293 A Wall 72 68 78 75. 295 M Gronberg (Swe) 72 69 77 77. 296 J Daly (US) 69 72 81 74. 297 R Coughlan 71 71 76 79.

EUROPEAN RYDER CUP TABLE: 1 C Montgomerie (Scot) 12,735pts (pounds 909,710); 2 J M Olazabal (Sp) 6,816 (pounds 486,895), 3 D Clarke (NIrl) 6,676 (pounds 476,904); 4 M A Jimenez (Spa) 6,166 (pounds 440,462); 5 J Sandelin (Swe) 6,075 (pounds 433,991); 6 L Westwood (Eng) 5,011 (pounds 357,950); 7 S Struver (Ger) 3,718 (pounds 265,634); 8 M James (Eng) 3,705 (pounds 264,659); 9 A Cejka (Ger) 3,618 (pounds 258,455); 10 B Langer (Ger) 3,570 (pounds 255,050); 11 A Coltart (Sco) 3,457 (pounds 246,962); 12 D Howell (Eng) 3,349 (pounds 239,273); 13 J Bickerton (Eng) 3,297 (pounds 235,516); 14 R Karlsson (Swe) 3,288 (pounds 234,886); 15 D Carter (Eng) 3,167 (pounds 226,280); 16 P Harrington (Irl) 3,115 (pounds 222,542); 17 D Robertson (Sco) 2,936 (pounds 209,727); 18 S Garcia (Spa) 2,816 (pounds 201,205); 19 P Sjoland (Swe) 2,690 (pounds 192,151); 20 P McGinley (Irl) 2,661 (pounds 190,095).

Top 10 and two wild cars to play

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