Golf: Gilford takes the strain to steer England to victory: Alfred Dunhill Cup final

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The Independent Online
THE lion may be rampant, but its teeth are drawn when it comes to the Alfred Dunhill Cup. Scotland, who have never made the most of home advantage, fell short again last night when they were beaten in the final at St Andrews. To make matters worse, the victors were England.

Steven Richardson and David Gilford secured England's second Dunhill title when they defeated Sandy Lyle and Gordon Brand Jnr respectively. Even the third match might have gone the visitors way, but that was abandoned in mid play-off once the overall result was beyond doubt, Jamie Spence and Colin Montgomerie still level after the first extra hole. England last won in 1987 when the runners- up were. . . Scotland.

'We've never lost to the Scots in this event,' Spence, the victorious captain, said, 'and we didn't want to be the first team to do so. The fact that we can win without Nick Faldo augurs well for the future. An England-Scotland final also underlines the strength of the European Tour.'

England's strength on the final day, indeed throughout the tournament, was David Gilford, who was unbeaten this week and whose victims yesterday were the current Masters champion, Fred Couples, and the former Masters and Open winner, Sandy Lyle. His scores of 69 and 71 made him four-under- par for the two rounds which, in the stressful circumstances they were played, spoke volumes for his self-control.

Last year Gilford, who would win a contest as the introverts' introvert if the electorate could be persuaded it was not too showy to vote, was the man Bernard Gallacher chose to leave out of the Ryder Cup singles when the Americans withdrew Steve Pate because of illness. Yesterday, any doubts about his mental toughness were thoroughly dispelled with a series of pressure putts.

In the morning semi-final, Couples was beaten by a stroke only when the 27-year-old from Crewe managed to get down in two for his par, after his approach to the 17th left him 35 feet short. Couples, meanwhile, was dropping a stroke after finding the Road Bunker.

In the final, the same hole was similarly significant. Gilford overhit a four-iron from 185 yards out and the ball trickled off the green and on to a narrow strip of grass between a gravel path and the road. Players have frequently taken six at the par-four hole from that position before now, so Gilford's two-stroke advantage over Lyle was less than secure, the more so as his opponent had a birdie possibility from 30 feet.

Gilford elected to use his putter, pushed the ball to eight feet from the flag and then holed out for a four. Lyle, meanwhile, had been a fraction away with his attempt. 'It was the killer,' Lyle conceded. 'I knew if I could reduce David's lead to a stroke I'd have a chance on the last so his par effectively ended the match. He played very well. He is a so good from 100 yards in.'

Earlier, Richardson had secured England's first point with a two-stroke win over Gordon Brand Jnr that was much easier than the 71-73 score suggested. By the 10th, Richardson was six strokes ahead and it required a double-bogey seven at the 14th, where the Englishman went out of bounds, and a Brand birdie at the last to keep the margin respectable. 'I've had a bad week,' Brand said. 'Whatever I did was a problem. Even waking up in the morning.'

Spence, too, will be waking up this morning pounds 100,000 richer, even though he failed to record a win throught the tournament. He was unfortunate because his scores of 77, 71, 72, 72 and 69 would have made him successful against many opponents and in the final he had England's best score. Even so, it was a strange way to earn the equivalent of four miners' redundancy payments.

Also strange was the BBC's decision to stop the live transmission at 5pm yesterday with Montgomerie and Spence on the 18th tee and the Lyle-Gilford match with two holes to play. A reason why the Alfred Dunhill Cup is run on strokeplay lines is because pure matchplay is inconvenient for television when one-sided games finish early, out of range of the cameras. To pull the plug yesterday, even accounting for the hour's delay in the morning because of frost, hardly strengthens the case for the format.

Scotland 1/2 England 2 1/2

G Brand Jnr 73 lost to S Richardson 71

C Montgomerie 69 halved with J Spence 69

after first extra hole

S Lyle 74 lost to D Gilford 71

SEMI-FINALS

United States 1 England 2

F Couples 70 lost to D Gilford 69

D Love III 71 lost to S Richardson 68

T Kite 71 bt J Spence 72

Australia 1 Scotland 2

I Baker-Finch 72 lost to C Montgomerie 68

R Davis 73 lost to S Lyle 69

G Norman 68 bt G Brand Jnr 73

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