Fulke victory merits delay for Clarke - Golf - Sport - The Independent

Fulke victory merits delay for Clarke

Pierre Fulke ensured the Order of Merit will not be decided for another Sunday by denying Darren Clarke victory in the Volvo Masters yesterday. A win for Clarke, the champion at Montecastillo two years ago, would have put him in such a strong position at the head of the money table that Colin Montgomerie's hopes of an eighth successive Vardon Trophy would have been at an end. With the £3.45m AmEx World Championship to come at Valderrama, there is still hope for Montgomerie but Fulke did a much bigger favour for Lee Westwood.

Pierre Fulke ensured the Order of Merit will not be decided for another Sunday by denying Darren Clarke victory in the Volvo Masters yesterday. A win for Clarke, the champion at Montecastillo two years ago, would have put him in such a strong position at the head of the money table that Colin Montgomerie's hopes of an eighth successive Vardon Trophy would have been at an end. With the £3.45m AmEx World Championship to come at Valderrama, there is still hope for Montgomerie but Fulke did a much bigger favour for Lee Westwood.

Clarke overtook his friend and rival at the top of the table but his lead was restricted to £62,500 after Westwood closed with a 65. Westwood shared third place with another order of merit contender, Michael Campbell, who equalled the course record with a 63.

"It is all going to come down to the last week," Clarke said after missing out on the £333,330 first prize by a stroke. "I am a bit disappointed after going out tied for the lead not to win but Pierre played fantastic down the stretch. They are intimidating holes and to play them as he did meant he deserved to win. We both played solid and there were very few mistakes, apart from one swing."

Clarke was referring to his tee shot at the 17th, which he pulled into the rough by a tree, leading to a bogey that dropped him behind the Swede. Fulke had drawn level by trumping Clarke's birdie at the previous hole. Oblivious to the water on the right, Fulke hit a wonderful five-wood approach shot and holed the eagle-putt from 25 feet.

Fulke, who closed with a 67 for 16 under par, was superb on the greens all week. He lies second on the putting statistics behind Westwood and is also one of the straighter drivers, which helped keep him out of Montecastillo's deep rough.

The 29-year-old, who held or shared the lead from the opening day, has now won three times in just over a year, a period that also includes a four-month lay-off because of a wrist injury. He underwent an unsuccessful operation on the wrist, and the injury eventually turned out to be related to a vertebra problem.

"To have come back from the injury and play as well as I have is wonderful," Fulke said. "This opens a lot of doors." It also gives him entry to the AmEx and a ton of Ryder Cup points. "That is the greatest event you can play in," he added.

Westwood, who might have got closer to the leaders had he not followed his opening two birdies with a dropped shot at the third, dragged himself up the leaderboard after a poor first day, but Campbell's nine-under effort was superb. The Kiwi headed the Australasian money list last winter and now lies fifth on the European Order of Merit.

After the seventh hole, when Campbell was one under for the day after a bogey at the first, his manager, Andrew Ramsay, offered to buy him dinner if he made five more birdies. That was achieved within the next six holes so Ramsay then offered a bottle of wine for each additional birdie. Campbell promptly eagled the 16th and birdied the 17th.

Montgomerie finished ninth and virtually conceded defeat in his quest to retain the Order of Merit. Sixth in the table, he must win at Valderrama, with Tiger Woods in the field, and hope Clarke is worse than fifth. "All good things come to an end, I suppose," Montgomerie said. "The competition has played well. I think they have all had enough of me, to be honest. It's good to see them all battling for their first title."

The Scot at least ended on a good note with a 65, 10 strokes better than a poor third round. Of the future, he said: "I've got nothing to prove here any more. I've got the T-shirt for the Order of Merit.

"If I could win again next year, after a disappointing end to this season, that would be good. But I want to win a major before I'm finished. I know I am good enough. I'll possibly spend more time in the States prior to the majors to help that."

As for American players failing to travel in the opposite direction - the Valderrama field could be decimated by up to a fifth by withdrawals - Montgomerie added: "It just shows the strength of the US Tour, but that is hurting international golf.

"They have so much money they don't have to travel for it. For them Valderrama is just another week. For us, it is a bit special because it is double our first prize."

LEADING FINAL SCORES FROM JEREZ

VOLVO MASTERS (GB and Irl unless stated): 272 P Fulke (Swe) 67 68 70 67. 273 D Clarke 68 69 68 68. 275 M Campbell (NZ) 73 67 72 63; L Westwood 76 69 65 65. 276 JM Olazabal (Sp) 67 69 72 68; A Cabrera (Arg) 69 70 69 68. 277 R Wessels (SA) 71 68 72 66; R Gonzalez (Arg) 71 68 69 69. 278 C Montgomerie 69 69 75 65. 279 P Senior (Aus) 71 71 69 68; A Coltart 73 69 68 69; F Jacobson (Swe) 72 65 71 71. 280 S Garcia (Sp) 73 71 70 66. 281 G Brand Jnr 69 70 73 69; P Harrington 72 69 69 71; B Langer (Ger) 70 72 68 71. 282 P Sjoland (Swe) 71 72 69 70; R Chapman 71 72 69 70; G Owen 68 71 72 71; J Van de Velde (Fr) 74 68 68 72; P Lawrie 72 70 68 72. 283 R Goosen (SA) 71 72 69 71. 284 T Johnstone (Zim) 72 72 71 69; A Wall 75 71 68 70; I Poulter 74 67 70 73; P Price 71 70 69 74; S Leaney (Aus) 71 66 69 78. 285 E Romero (Arg) 70 72 75 68; T Bjorn (Den) 78 71 68 68; N Faldo 74 68 73 70; D Robertson 68 74 73 70; MA Martin (Sp) 72 70 70 73; E Canonica (It) 72 68 70 75. 286 P O'Malley (Aus) 72 73 70 71; P McGinley 73 70 70 73; M McNulty (Zim) 71 75 67 73; D Howell 72 71 68 75. 287 A Cejka (Ger) 72 70 74 71; P Baker 71 72 70 74. 288 A Hansen (Den) 76 69 72 71; R Green (Aus) 74 69 71 74. 289 MA Jimenez (Sp) 73 71 73 72. 290 I Garbutt 74 74 70 72. 291 Zhang Lian-wei (China) 73 75 76 67; J Sandelin (Swe) 74 72 76 69; C Rocca (It) 73 74 72 72; N O'Hern (Aus) 71 72 75 73; S Tinning (Den) 73 76 69 73; P-U Johansson (Swe) 76 70 71 74. 292 L Parsons (Aus) 75 71 72 74; G Ogilvy (Aus) 80 67 70 75. 293 M Gronberg (Swe) 75 70 74 74. 294 A Forsyth 75 76 72 71. 295 S Gallacher 75 75 72 73; J Coceres (Arg) 74 73 74 74; N Fasth (Swe) 73 72 74 76. 296 I Garrido (Sp) 78 76 72 70; B Davis 77 74 72 73. 297 G Orr 74 76 73 74; R Rafferty 73 74 73 77. 300 S Ballesteros (Sp) 80 72 74 74; I Woosnam 75 77 73 75. 301 R Muntz (Neth) 74 76 75 76. 302 M Harwood (Aus) 79 73 76 74. 308 J Lomas 77 74 78 79.

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