Clarke forfeits victory after greed spells disaster at 18th

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The Independent Online

Darren Clarke admitted that greed had cost him victory in the MCI Heritage in South Carolina on Sunday. Clarke went all out for a birdie on the final hole but a double-bogey on the par-four, his third of the day, allowed Peter Lonard to take the winning prize-money of just under £500,000.

"I was probably a little greedy on 18 with the way that I had been swinging all day," the Ulsterman said. "Trying to take an eight-iron in and take down the flag proved to be foolish."

Clarke and Lonard were tied at seven under going to the 18th and both hit the middle of the fairway with their tee shots. The Australian found the green on his approach, but Clarke's second shot landed in the deep rough, leading to a penalty stroke.

It was a nightmare finish for Clarke, who had held a commanding six-shot lead at 12 under earlier in the tournament. He stumbled to a 73 on day three and 76 in the final round to finish tied for second at five under with three Americans: Davis Love III, Billy Andrade and Jim Furyk.

Clarke had no excuses and could not explain how he lost his swing as he played the final 13 holes at nine over, and that after having birdied four of the first five holes yesterday.

"No, it just got progressively worse, no real point where I could say it went," Clarke said. "It's a pretty tough golf course."

Lonard, who hung on for a two-shot victory despite closing with a 75 himself, said: "It might have been me. It was just the strangest thing. We had been going head-to-head all day, and we made the odd mistake and got away with the odd thing.

"I think he obviously tried to hit it right next to the flag [at 18] and took it on. I probably put him in that situation because I hit a decent shot there. It was the only right club I picked most of the day."

At home, the game yesterday received a £9.2m boost from Sport England to fund growth over the next four years. The money will support the Whole Sport Plan which has brought the various factions running the game in England together for the first time under the new umbrella of The England Golf Partnership.

The Professional Golfers' Association, English Golf Union, England Golf Partnership and the English Ladies Golf Association have responded to Sport England's call to link up and develop the game from school and adult beginners to international level with the target of becoming the world's top golfing nation by 2020.

It is also hoped the scheme will help fill many of the 50,000 membership vacancies available at clubs across the country and change the image of golf as "an exclusive sport".