Clark casts flair aside to grind out victory

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The Independent Online

The fact that it was Tim Clark rather than Ernie Els (winner in 2000 and 2003) or Retief Goosen (2001) was no great surprise after Clark, 29, had started the day with a share of the lead at 15 under par. In six out of nine of the previous Scottish Opens staged on this course, the winner had led going into the final day.

Clark's final round of 67 yesterday - characterised by consistency rather than flair on a hot, breezeless afternoon, and polished off with a composed 20ft putt for birdie - took him to 19 under. Second place was shared by the Netherlands' Maarten Lafeber, who carded 67 for 17 under overall, and Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke, who hit a five under par 66 that was sporadically spectacular. Ian Poulter hit the day's lowest round, a 65, to storm through from joint-11th to take fourth, on 16 under.

Clark, whose recent form also earned him a share of third place at last month's US Open, left this bonnie scene with a £400,000 cheque to bank. Lafeber left it heading in the direction of the east coast - a victory in itself. By finishing here as the leading non-exempt player, he not only pocketed £158,450 for his share of second place but entry into The Open.

Clarke left with a personal victory. He played, by his own admission, at less than his best, yet remained in contention with some superb putting and commendable approaches. Yesterday he birdied the 1st and 3rd before holing his 130-yard wedge shot for an eagle two on the 385-yard 4th. Had Clark and Lafeber not both made birdie starts, he would have led the field on his own, albeit briefly.

"I'm doing OK, grinding it out," Clark said. "You wait for a day like today when it gets better. Hopefully, I can get the grinding days down a bit and have more days like today." Looking ahead, he added: "The Open at St Andrews - it doesn't get any better."

Poulter, who yesterday played in a relatively conservative pink shirt and unspectacular trousers, let his golf grab the attention, with seven birdies spoilt only by a poor shot on the 16th that led to a bogey.

"I played lovely all day," he said. Asked who he would like to play with at The Open, he replied, with typical confidence: "Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Ernie [Els] or Phil [Mickelson]. Or Jack [Nicklaus]. I am comfortable in that company."

Mickelson hit 69 here yesterday to finish five under par, while Els hit 68 to finish 13 under. The leading Scottish hope, Alastair Forsyth, carded a par 71 to end at 14 under.

SCOTTISH OPEN (Loch Lomond) Leading final scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 265 T Clark (SA) 67 66 65 67. 267 D Clarke 67 65 69 66; M Lafeber (Neth) 67 63 68 69. 268 I Poulter 69 67 67 65. 269 N Dougherty 66 69 67 67; L Donald 68 67 67 67; A Cabrera (Arg) 64 67 68 70. 270 P Hedblom (Swe) 67 68 68 67; M A Jimenez (Sp) 67 69 66 68; A Forsyth 68 64 67 71. 271 E Els (SA) 70 66 67 68. Selected: 274 C Montgomerie 68 69 66 71. 276 L Westwood 65 69 72 70.

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