Golf: Woods has Europeans on ropes

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The Independent Online
SERGIO GARCIA provided the European Ryder Cup team with its only success in the NEC Invitational World Championship in Ohio. The Spaniard was the only member of the team to finish in red figures as the American team dominated the leaderboard.

The 19-year-old struggled to a final round two-over-par 72, but still hung on for a share of seventh place thanks to a two-under, 278 total for the tournament. That left him eight shots adrift of the world No 1, Tiger Woods, who clung on to add another $1m (pounds 600,000) to his bank balance by one shot from Phil Mickelson.

Woods holed a 15-foot birdie putt at the 17th hole, after which he went down on his haunches and pumped his fist in delight. It clinched his sixth title of the year, allowing him the luxury of a bogey at the last.

Ireland's Padraig Harrington was the next best European behind Garcia at even par, but for no one was the torment worse than for Jose Maria Olazabal.

He is one of Europe's bankers to play all five rounds in his sixth Ryder Cup next month and nurse along the rookies. But Olazabal admits he no longer knows which side of the rough or which hazard he is going to drive into next.

He followed up roller-coaster rounds of even par 70, 80, and 69 with a three over par final round of 73, which began with three straight sixes to take him five over in just three holes. While he pitched in for an eagle on the way home it was a significant slide for the man who won the second of his two US Masters titles last April.

The basement of this tournament was full of Europe's Ryder Cup stars - Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke shooting a five over par final round 75 to finish nine over for the tournament while his friend Lee Westwood shot a 72 to end just one shot better. "What does this week mean?" Westwood asked and answered: "It means the European team is far inferior to the US team - we are massive underdogs and the USA are huge favourites."

Colin Montgomerie, complaining of being exhausted after winning twice in Europe in the past three weeks, came in with a 76, while the Ryder Cup wild card, Andrew Coltart, hit an eight at the par-five second, setting the tone for a seven-over par 77.

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