GOLF New putter lifts James to victory

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The Independent Online

Mark James, using a long-handled putter for the first time this week, and David Gilford both shot a course record 65 to finish first and second in the Moroccan Open at Agadir yesterday. The seven-under-par final round gave James a 13-under-par total of 275 and a one-shot victory over Gilford, with Robert Karlsson of Sweden third on 277.

It was the first British success in eight European Tour events this year and the first victory for James since he won the Canary Islands Open in February 1993. James had eight birdies in his round and 10 single putts with his broom-handled putter.

He said: "I've been putting poorly for 18 years so I thought I might as well have a change. I practised with this long putter on my carpet at home last week and it seemed quite good. Then I holed a six-footer on the first hole here which set me off, and today I was brilliant."

James has always had problems with short putts in the past, but yesterday he knocked in the two and three footers without a tremor. He had birdies at the second, third, fifth and sixth holes before a bogey at the ninth took him to the turn in 33.

Then he went into overdrive as he birdied the 11th, 12th, 15th and 17th holes for the 17th European Tour victory of his career. He needed par at the last hole for victory, and two steady shots on to the green and two putts, the second another tricky two-footer, brought him the first prize of £58,330.

MOROCCAN OPEN (Agadir) Leading final scores (GB and Irl unless stated): 275 M James 70 70 70 65. 276 D Gilford 71 71 69 65. 277 R Karlsson (Swe) 68 69 73 67. 278 A Cejka (Ger) 66 72 72 68. 280 P Price 71 72 69 68; S Torrance 67 70 72 71. 283 R Claydon 69 75 69 70; A Hunter 75 68 69 71. 284 A Coltart 70 72 72 70.

Order of Merit, Ryder Cup standings, Sporting Digest, page 28