Golf: Nilsmark leaves rivals in the slow lane: Swede adds Ford to BMW and Harley as she gives Woburn hopefuls a hard shoulder to cry on

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The Independent Online
AS CATRIN NILSMARK set off in pursuit of her first victory on the European Tour, all roads to Woburn were grinding to a halt. The 26-year-old Swedish woman duly won the Ford Classic yesterday, an event that will be remembered for the jams created by a record crowd as much as for the jam she received for a convincing triumph.

More than 20,000 people watched the final round and by lunchtime the tail-backs were beginning to interfere with the flow on the M1. Those still stuck in traffic were suddenly alerted on their radios to abandon the journey because the course was full. Ian McAllister, chairman of Ford, was one of those stuck in traffic and he arrived late.

Up to a quarter of a million tickets are given away for this event through garages, golf clubs and a freephone service but Ford's main concern was to get names and addresses on to its database, not to get its chairman immobile in a limousine in the Bedfordshire countryside. The presence of fine weather and the absence of live television contributed to the chaos. Meanwhile, the final round of the men's tournament in Catalonia was watched by fewer than 1,000 people.

Nilsmark won pounds 15,000 and a Probe car worth pounds 18,000. She drives a BMW and a Harley-Davidson and will ask Ford if it wants to buy the Probe back off her. She led by three strokes going into the final round and with six holes to play had been joined at the top of the leaderboard by three others at eight under par.

It was then that Nilsmark found another gear and the rest were left in the slow lane. She birdied four of the last six holes and at the 17th and 18th hit her approach shots stiff to the flag. She was playing with Trish Johnson who, along with the rookie, Joanne Morley, finished joint second at eight under, four shots behind.

Johnson, who began with two birdies, threatened all sorts of mayhem when she eagled the sixth but a double bogey at the ninth was akin to a pit-stop. 'It helped me that Trish came level,' Nilsmark said. 'I felt I had to fight all the way. I said to Trish at one point that it didn't even feel like a golf course. It's such a narrow course and there were people everywhere.'

Nilsmark shot 70, four under for the round, but of the leaders Morley put in the best card. The 27-year- old from Sale, playing in her first professional tournament, posted a 69. Woolworths in Stretford, where she was employed until January, can wait. 'My feeling when the last putt went in was just one of relief,' she said. 'I never thought of winning . . . I never looked at the scoreboard.'

Morley, a member of the victorious GB and Ireland Curtis Cup team at Hoylake two years ago, had a small army of supporters following her progress here. 'I'm happy as long as I can see friendly faces in the crowd,' she said. She kept smiling and waving at those friendly faces and afterwards admitted that she did not have a clue how much money she had won. 'Peanuts' was how she described her earnings at Woolies. Yesterday she received pounds 8,575. She also received, retrospectively from the sponsors, a bonus of pounds 1,000 for her hole in one at the 13th during the second round.

For the second day running Laura Davies threatened to defrock the Duchess when she eagled the first. Again she hit an iron off the tee and her approach shot came within a few inches of an albatross. She moved from four under to six under but immediately lost momentum at the short second where she missed the green and took a bogey four. Davies, the world No 1, recorded another 71, three under for the day and at seven under for the tournament she finished five strokes adrift of the winner.

FORD WOMEN'S CLASSIC (Duchess Course, Woburn) Leading final scores (GB and Irl unless stated): 284 C Nilsmark (Swe) 73 68 73 70. 288 J Morley 73 69 77 69; T Johnson 74 70 73 71. 289 L Davies 74 73 71 71. 290 A Arruti (Sp) 75 71 72 72; S Strudwick 74 72 72 72; A Sorenstam (Swe) 73 71 73 73. 291 S Prosser 73 73 74 71; J Bartholomew (US) 70 78 71 72; M Lunn (Aus) 72 70 75 74. 293 K Marshall 75 76 73 69.

(Photograph omitted)

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