Golf: Daly's treasure hunt halted by Langer magic: Riches in defeat for American

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The Independent Online
MORE than 30,000 people descended on Mount Juliet for the climax of the Murphy's Irish Open yesterday and a fair number of them came to watch one man. John Patrick Daly began the fourth round with six successive threes at which point those in their living-rooms switched off the television and made their way to the golf course.

Daly duly equalled the course record with a 65 and at 12 under par for the championship was the leader in the clubhouse. To be precise he was the leader in the press tent for he retired to the Fourth Estate's workplace and in two respects reversed the behaviour of his fan club. He did not drink and he watched the tournament on television. It's not the best programme he's watched because Bernhard Langer overtook him.

Daly began the day seven strokes off the lead and was in the thick of it, picking up five strokes in the first five holes. He holed from eight feet for a birdie at the first, from 20 feet for a birdie at the second, from 10 feet for a birdie at the fourth and from 15 feet for an eagle three at the fifth where he hit a six-iron approach. He went to the turn in 31 and came home in 34 with further birdies at the 10th and the 13th. At the 18th he drove his ball so far right of the fairway a youngster, invoking treasure- trove, picked it up. He could not have committed a worse sin had he taken a sledgehammer to the Blarney Stone. When several thousand spectators made him aware of his indiscretion the boy dropped the ball as if it was a hot potato.

However, Daly's 65 - the record was established by Nick Faldo last year and was matched by Sam Torrance on Thursday - was a stroke shy as Langer, four strokes behind the leader Robert Allenby after the third round, compiled a 67 to finish on 275, 13 under par for the championship. Langer also got off to a flier with four birdies in the first five holes and he too went out in 31.

The 22-year-old Allenby, who started at 12 under following three rounds of 68, relinquished the lead when he had a six at the eighth. The magic figure was 13 under and Allenby got to it with a birdie at the 10th. It was odds on a play-off as Langer, for the first time in 36 holes, dropped a shot. His round was by no means uneventful and when he found a bunker at the 15th - he'd got up and down from three earlier visits to the sand - he took a bogey five.

It dropped him back to 12 under but the stroke that ultimately won him the championship came at the 16th where he sank a putt of around 30 feet for a birdie three. When Allenby missed the green at the 11th and dropped a shot, Langer held the lead.

He won pounds 98,765 and moved to second in the Order of Merit with pounds 268,740. It was his 30th victory in Europe, his 42nd worldwide, and his third Irish Open title. He won at Royal Dublin in 1984 and at Portmarnock in 1987. 'It's fun to be playing well again,' Langer said. 'I'm happy with the way my game has developed over the last six weeks.' Or even the last 16 years.

Faldo, three strokes off the lead going into the fourth round, was in the final pairing with Allenby and neither he nor the Australian could reproduce the form they showed on Saturday. Faldo had a double bogey at the short third and although he immediately countered with two successive birdies he made no headway on the leaderboard. He had another bogey at the par-three sixth; birdies at the 10th and 11th followed by a bogey five at the 12th. One step forward, one step back.

It was a similar story for Jose-Maria Olazabal. Olazabal, beaten by Faldo here in a play-off 12 months ago, also began at nine under and after dropping a stroke at the first he had to wait until the 10th for his first birdie of the day. He shot 71 to finish joint fourth, Faldo 73 for joint eighth. Whereas Langer kept escaping from Jack Nicklaus's bunkers, Faldo, who was in six of them, lost whatever it was he had found in the third round.

Daly, joint second with Allenby, won pounds 51,466, but it's possible that he came away richer than Langer. Daly is reputed to have received dollars 100,000 to display his outrageous swing, and his almost equally outrageous haircut, in the Emerald Isle. The reformed alcoholic said: 'I can't ever remember scoring six threes in a row. If I've done it before I was drunk.' Nor can he remember having two rounds in a tournament without a bogey. 'I don't know what to say about that,' he said.

MURPHY'S IRISH OPEN (Mount Juliet, County Kilkenny) Leading final scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 275 B Langer (Ger) 70 68 70 67; 276 J Daly (US) 70 68 73 65, R Allenby (Aus) 68 68 68 72. 278 G Turner (NZ) 73 70 69 66, J-M Olazabal (Sp) 68 68 71 71. 279 S Richardson 71 70 69 69, P Baker 70 68 71 70. 280 S Torrance 65 73 73 69, E Els (SA) 71 73 67 69, C Parry (Aus) 70 69 70 71, A Binaghi (Ita) 69 70 70 71, M Harwood (Aus) 69 69 70 72, P Moloney (Aus) 71 70 67 72, N Faldo 69 71 67 73. 281 M McLean 70 70 73 68, M Clayton (Aus) 68 71 72 70, R Davis (Aus) 74 69 68 70, J McHenry 73 71 66 71, P-U Johansson (Swe) 72 69 67 73. 282 D Borrego (Sp) 68 74 72 68, T Johnstone (Zim) 68 69 76 69, R Alvarez (Arg) 71 71 71 69, F Nobilo (NZ) 73 72 67 70. 283 M Gronberg (Swe) 68 72 75 68, S Lyle 71 71 71 70, C Montgomerie 70 70 72 71, D Hospital (Sp) 69 71 71 72. 284 S Struver (Ger) 69 74 71 70, P Lawrie 68 73 69 74, M Gates 70 74 66 74. 285 R Claydon 73 69 74 69, E Romero (Arg) 69 71 72 73. 286 S Ballesteros (Sp) 67 76 71 72, W Riley (Aus) 72 72 69 73, G Evans 70 68 73 75. 287 S Hamill 72 72 74 69, R Goosen (SA) 74 70 73 70, P Hedblom (Swe) 71 71 74 71, C Cassells 67 75 72 73, B Nelson (US) 69 71 74 73, I Palmer (SA) 69 72 71 75, T Levet (Fr) 71 69 71 76. 288 O Nordberg (Swe) 71 72 74 71, L Westwood 68 71 75 74, J M Canizares (Sp) 75 68 70 75.