Heroics of Ryder Cup inspire Stenson to victory

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The Independent Online

Having lost four of the last five Ryder Cups, an even bigger worry for American golf should be that they have lost the last three Walker Cups. This Heritage tournament, with the hard task of following the thrilling events at Oakland Hills, merely added to the feeling that Europe is overflowing with promising players.

Graeme McDowell and Nick Dougherty, both high up on the leaderboard here, were both members of the 2001 Walker Cup team, alongside Luke Donald. McDowell should, and Dougherty, could, be contenders for the 2006 Ryder Cup in Ireland.

James Heath, the English amateur champion, played four rounds in five under and yesterday outscored his playing partner, Sam Torrance, 70 to 74, and should play in the next Walker Cup before turning professional.

In the Walker Cup, the States only face Great Britain and Ireland. When you add in continental Europe the picture gets rosier. Having won the Benson and Hedges International in his rookie season three years ago, but then lost his game and confidence, Henrik Stenson claimed The Heritage title in handsome fashion by birdieing four of the last five holes.

The 28-year-old Malmo resident won by four strokes from Carlos Rodiles, who was also runner-up at the Volvo Masters last year, a performance that put him in the running for a Ryder Cup place until a rib injury earlier in the season.

In each of victories on the Challenge Tour and the main circuit, Stenson has led from the front and was never caught yesterday as he closed with a 66. "There was a time when I totally lost confidence and you wonder what you are doing but I've fought my way back," he said.

"Obviously, I watched the Ryder Cup and there was a function on Wednesday night where they showed some clips and interviewed some of the players and that was inspiring going into a tournament," he added. "I will be trying my best to be in the next team."

The Heritage (Woburn) Leading final scores (GB or Irl unless stated, x denotes amateur): 269 H Stenson (Swe) 69 67 67 66. 275 P Sjöland (Swe) 68 68 68 71. 276 A Hansen (Den) 72 68 71 65. 277 S Dodd 76 68 67 66; B Lane 71 67 72 67; P Price 68 67 72 70; S Wakefield 70 68 67 72. 278 G Murphy 71 73 70 64; N O'Hern (Aus) 67 72 71 68; I Woosnam 71 69 68 70; A Forsyth 73 68 66 71; M Ilonen (Fin) 70 71 65 72. Selected: 280 R Goosen (SA) 70 72 67 71. 283 (x) J Heath 73 70 70 70. 284 P Harrington 72 71 71 70.

¿ Ian Woosnam has suggested himself as a replacement for Bernhard Langer as Ryder Cup captain. "One of the strengths of the Europeans is the team spirit," he said. "That's one of my strengths too."