Karlsson claims lead in race for Europe

Sweden's Robert Karlsson won the Dunhill Links Championship after a three-way sudden death play-off at St Andrews yesterday. Karlsson finished tied with Germany's Martin Kaymer and Briton Ross Fisher after 72 holes but a birdie at the first extra hole earned him the victory.

"I was pretty confident playing the first again because I'd birdied it twice before so I had a good feeling for it," Karlsson said .

Fisher had set the four-round total of 278 with a seven-under 65, soon matched by Karlsson, while Kaymer, seeking a third win of the year, carded a 68, leaving the trio two shots better than another Swede, Jarmo Sandelin (70). Kaymer had had two golden chances to seal victory in normal time, but missed a five-foot putt when bogeying 17 and an eight-footer for birdie on the last, and then Karlsson took control in the shootout.

The tall Swede's accurate three-wood off the tee and wedge to around three feet guided him to the £450,000 first prize.

His win, added to victory in the Mercedes Benz Championship the week before the Ryder Cup, lifted him above Ireland's Padraig Harrington in the European Order of Merit.

Fisher knocked himself out of the running by driving into the Swilcan Burn in the play-off and Kaymer missed a 12-foot putt for birdie.

As the pro-am event, played at the St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns courses on the previous three days, came to its finale, Karlsson began the day three shots adrift of the lead and one behind Harrington. The Irishman flagged after staying with the leaders for a time to finish five shots away from the playoff with a 71.

Harrington is due to contest the season-ending Volvo Masters, while Karlsson has two events left in his campaign, and leads the Irishman by £110,193.

"I still rate Padraig's year higher than mine because he's won two majors," Karlsson said. "But I've got him for now. I have one more tournament than Padraig so if I do my job well maybe I can build a little cushion."

Harrington admitted his lack of practice and low energy levels after such a pressurised season found him out in the end.

"I made a few birdies but it all fell apart after I missed a good chance on 11. It's hard to get away with it on a Sunday when you're not prepared," said Harrington. "I know myself I'm just not on top of my game. It could be in Robert's hands now but no matter what, he will be under pressure."