Golf: Russell and Baker first on two-way street: British friends forge victory in Tournoi Perrier de Paris fourballs as Spanish dream ticket's best is left too late

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The Independent Online
D J RUSSELL and Peter Baker won the Tournoi Perrier de Paris after seeing a comfortable cushion become a bed of nails in the final round yesterday. The Midlands pair, close friends and regular practice partners, held on by their fingertips to win by one stroke from Mark Mouland and Jamie Spence.

Jose-Maria Olazabal and Seve Ballesteros, the dream ticket, finished joint third with Paul Eales and Russell Claydon on 17 under par, three strokes behind the winners after starting the day six strokes adrift. The Spaniards squandered numerous chances over the front nine and they left the best until last with three birdies in the last three holes.

Russell, who will be 40 next month, was the strong man of his partnership and he sustained the challenge over the back nine after it looked as if it was all going to go horribly wrong. He and Baker had a better ball score of 69 for an aggregate of 260, 20 under par. Mouland and Spence came in with a 64 and Olazabal and Ballesteros with a 66. Russell and Baker shared a first prize of pounds 70,000.

Just off the fairway at the 14th is a monument to Henri Regnault, who was shot and killed at the age of 27 by the Prussians in the Battle of Buzenval on this site in 1871. Harry Colt, the British architect, designed the initial course and in the visitors' book are the names of the Duke of Windsor, King Leopold, Dwight Eisenhower and the astronaut Jim Irwin. Yesterday, Russell and Baker left their mark after Olazabal and Ballesteros threatened further trouble for the unfortunate Regnault when they were in a position to change the leaderboard.

Baker and Russell, who had set the pace with a remarkable score of 58 in the opening fourballs on Thursday (eight birdies and two eagles), led by six strokes going into the final round of fourballs and by the 12th had been caught by Mouland and Spence. When Ballesteros holed from 15 feet for a birdie two at the 13th, the Spanish pair were just one shot off the lead.

Then Olazabal and Ballesteros both missed the fairway to the right at the 14th and neither could save par. They dropped another shot at the 15th and behind them Russell, the principal architect of that first round of 58, suddenly found his putting touch. He holed from 12 feet for a two at the 13th and from 15 feet for another birdie at the 14th. Those two strokes gave Baker and Russell their second wind and they led by two from Mouland and Spence and by four from Olazabal and Ballesteros.

Russell and Baker, who had never won anything together apart from taking side bets off Ian Woosnam, had a stroke of luck at the 17th where both hit wayward drives. Russell's tee shot smacked into a tree and rebounded on to the fairway. It gave him the chance to hit a splendid approach on to the green and a birdie four secured their slender advantage on a day of high winds and high drama.

Olazabal's next engagement is in the Benson and Hedges International at St Mellion in the first week of May, although before that he will have an audience with King Juan Carlos. Is it in Madrid? Olazabal was asked. 'I don't think he's going to come to me,' he replied. Ballesteros gave the King a set of clubs a few years ago but he does not think they have been taken out of the bag.

Olazabal, a millionaire several times over, has had a house built between the second and seventh holes at the course at San Sebastian and his parents have moved in with him. He is having a fitness centre built on to the side. His only other act of extravagance is to buy a Volvo, which should please the European Tour's corporate sponsors.

TOURNOI PERRIER DE PARIS FOURBALLS (St Cloud Golf Club) Leading final scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 260 P Baker and D J Russell 58 68 65 69. 261 J Spence and M Mouland 62 69 66 64. 263 S Ballesteros and J-M Olazabal (Sp) 63 67 67 66; R Claydon and P Eales 60 66 71 66. 264 M-A Jimenez and J Rivero (Sp) 66 70 64 64. 265 A Sherborne and P Curry 65 68 67 65; M Davis and D R Jones 66 68 67 64; T Levet and M Pendaries (Fr) 62 71 66 66. 266 M Pinero and J-M Canizares (Sp) 63 68 67 68; S Richardson and P Mitchell 65 69 65 67. 267 G J Brand and G Ralph 65 69 68 65. 268 D Smyth and P McGinley 68 68 64 68. 269 P Lawrie and S McAllister 66 68 70 65; J Arruti and T Munoz (Sp) 65 69 70 65; R Goosen (SA) and G Evans 66 69 68 66; F Regard and J Remesy (Fr) 65 67 70 67; I Gervas and D Hospital (Sp) 66 69 67 67; J Lomas and M Tunnicliff 65 71 66 67; R Mann and K Waters 65 69 67 68.