Golf: Steady Standly secures his Masters card: First tournament wins for a cool American and an Italian who hits hot streak to break course record in final round

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MIKE STANDLY won the Freeport- McMoRan Classic yesterday when Payne Stewart and Russ Cochran, the only ones who could have tied with him, both failed to sink long birdie putts on the last hole. It was Standly's first tournament win.

Standly's 67 was the best round of the day and allowed him to cancel his plans for next week and gain a seat on the players' plane to Augusta and the Masters. Standly, the co-runner-up with Greg Norman here last year, had the best nine holes of the tournament yesterday, playing his front nine in 31 shots.

Standly stood up well to the pressure. After opening up a three-shot lead at the 11th hole he had just two bad shots, both resulting in a bogey, but none of the other competitors mounted enough of a challenge.

Stewart appeared to be out of the running after three bogeys and three birdies on the front nine. Five shots behind Standly after the turn, Stewart missed several short putts, but after the 13th hole the putts started dropping. Stewart made three birdies in four holes, and teed off on the 18th one shot behind.

Norman had put himself in a good position to improve his record at English Turn; in three starts he had had three second-place finishes. Norman had a birdie at the fourth hole, then made a 10-foot eagle putt on the par- five sixth. He made a birdie at the ninth from two feet for a nine-hole score of 32. The edge of the hole got between Norman and a birdie on several holes on the back nine, and he had his first birdie on the par-five 15th after being the only player to reach the island green in two shots. Norman fell out of contention when he missed a two and a half foot putt for par on the 17th.

Nick Faldo shot his best round yesterday, a three-under-par 69. Faldo had five birdies and two bogeys, and said afterwards that, in contrast to his previous round of 76, he hit just two bad shots all day. 'My game's good. I know what I'm doing. I'm now switched on for Augusta.'

Heading to the Masters with considerably less confidence was Jose Maria Olazabal, who had a three-birdie, three-bogey 72. Olazabal said before his round that although he could not give up all hope, he did not think he had much of a chance to do well at Augusta.

FREEPORT-McMORAN CLASSIC (English Turn, New Orleans, Louisiana) Leading final scores (US unless stated): 281 M Standly 71 71 72 67. 282 R Cochran 75 68 70 69; P Stewart 70 70 73 69. 284 G Norman (Aus) 77 69 70 68. 285 V Singh (Fiji) 72 73 72 68. 287 S Hoch 72 74 72 69; D Mast 76 72 70 69; N Lancaster 72 73 71 71; G Kraft 72 71 69 75. 288 E Fiori 71 75 71 71; D Waldorf 71 73 72 72. Selected: 294 N Faldo (Eng) 78 71 76 69. 298 J M Olazabal (Sp) 78 71 77 72.