Gonzalez enjoys first triumph

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The Independent Online

Argentina's Ricardo Gonzalez yesterday became the third first-time winner on the European tour in the space of four weeks. Following the German Tobias Dier's win in Ireland and the English rookie Paul Casey's victory in Scotland, the 31-year-old captured the Omega European Masters in Switzerland by three strokes.

Gonzalez, the biggest hitter on the circuit this season with an average drive of 303 yards, compiled a closing 68 for a 16-under-par total of 268.

The outright leader after every round, the former caddie pushed Dane Soren Hansen into second place and so kept the title in Argentine hands 12 months after Eduardo Romero's triumph. Victory was worth £156,616 to a man who made six trips to the tour qualifying school before graduating from the Challenge Tour.

Craig Stadler's attempt to become the oldest winner in European tour history was alive and kicking after the American had birdied the first two holes and climbed into joint second place. But the 48-year-old, winner of the 1982 US Masters, had to settle for joint third place with Gary Orr.

Lee Westwood's hopes of ending his victory drought this year disappeared when he triple-bogeyed the par-four fourth, but just to play 72 holes with no recurrence of the wrist injury which forced him out of his last event was good news for the Ryder Cup team.

"I'd give my wrist 10 out of 10, but my golf about four," he said after finishing alongside the world No 4, Ernie Els, in 16th place on four under.

Only one of Europe's top 15 this season was in the field following Thomas Bjorn's withdrawal with a shoulder injury. The Swede was told yesterday by a specialist that the injury should not keep him out of the Ryder Cup. His manager, Guy Kinnings, said: "He has pulled out of this week's American Express event in St Louis, but will instead go to Paris next week for the Lancome Trophy."

EUROPEAN MASTERS (Crans-sur-Sierre; Switzerland) Leading final scores and totals (GB or Irl unless stated): 268 R Gonzalez (Arg) 65 67 68 68. 271 S Hansen (Den) 70 65 68 68. 273 C Stadler (US) 69 69 67 68; G Orr 67 66 71 69. 274 F Jacobson (Swe) 68 71 65 70. 276 G Owen 68 67 68 73; S Scahill (NZ) 67 67 68 74. 277 P Fowler (Aus) 69 71 69 68; G Brand Jnr 66 71 71 69. 278 R Jacquelin (Fr) 68 70 72 68; E Romero (Arg) 72 67 71 68; D Gilford 67 66 72 73. 279 J Donaldson 71 72 66 70; F Valera (Sp) 69 72 67 71; M Brier (Aut) 69 67 70 73. Selected: 280 E Els (SA) 71 72 68 69; L Westwood 70 69 69 72. 281 M Mouland 69 72 72 68. 282 J Rose 69 69 72 72. 283 S Torrance 72 71 71 69. 284 N Faldo 70 72 70 72.

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