Els praises Wakefield's stirring fight after routing field

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The Independent Online

Ernie Els hailed the character of Simon Wakefield after the Englishman's second place at the Asian Open here yesterday.

A final-round 65 ensured Els his 21st European Tour title. His total of 262 was 26 under par and he routed the rest of the field, with Wakefield 13 shots behind, one ahead of Denmark's Thomas Bjorn.

His margin of victory was a new Asian Tour record and the second biggest in a European Tour event behind the 15-shot win recorded by Tiger Woods at the 2000 US Open. Wakefield's challenge appeared to be waning after bogeys at the eighth and ninth, but he hit back with two birdies and only one more bogey on the back nine. Els said: "I was very happy for Simon. It was like another tournament within the tournament [between Wakefield and Bjorn] and I was watching from the sidelines. Thomas is a great friend of mine and I would have liked to see him finish second, but - in the same breath - Simon is such a great young guy and played with a lot of character. He wanted to finish second and that is what he did. I was very pleased for him, too."

Wakefield, 31, who came through the Qualifying School final in 2004 after losing his tour card at the end of last season, shot a closing 73 to claim second and move up to 31st on the Order of Merit.

However, he admitted he feared the worst after his shaky opening to yesterday's delayed round and was angry at himself for being uptight. "Obviously, it was not a great start bogeying eight and nine," he said.

"Walking down 10, I was thinking to myself that I wasn't enjoying it. Then I gave myself a kick up the backside and was thinking: 'You are playing golf with Ernie Els and you are not enjoying it. What's going on?' I then hit a good shot into 11, which hit the pin and came back. I had a bad club at 12 and then holed a good chip. After that, the mood changed and I was fired up."

Tied for fourth on 10 under were New Zealand's Eddie Lee and Jean-François Lucquin, of France. Britain's Luke Donald and Stuart Little shared sixth on nine under, the latter firing a final-round 66.

Asian Open (Shanghai) Leading final scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 262 E Els (SA) 67 62 68 65. 275 S Wakefield 67 69 66 73. 276T Bjorn (Den) 71 65 68 72. 278 J-F Lucquin (Fr) 70 66 69 73; E Lee (NZ) 67 66 73 72. 279 S Little 71 70 72 66; L Donald 70 69 68 72. 280 J Kingston (SA) 70 71 69 70; S Hansen (Den) 69 70 68 73. 281 E Michaels (US) 74 69 67 71; P Hedblom (Swe) 72 69 70 70; Jeev Milkha Singh (Ind) 69 68 70 74; D Park 70 69 71 71. Selected: 282 S Dyson 70 74 66 72. 285 M A Jimenez (Sp) 70 73 69 73; J Van de Velde (Fr) 67 69 72 77. 286 C Montgomerie 73 70 73 70.

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