Karlsson makes up for Ryder regrets

Ryder Cup reject Robert Karlsson gave Mark James a glimpse of what might have been with his third European Tour victory in the Belgacom Open at the Royal Zoute Golf Club in Knokke.

Ryder Cup reject Robert Karlsson gave Mark James a glimpse of what might have been with his third European Tour victory in the Belgacom Open at the Royal Zoute Golf Club in Knokke.

Karlsson was overlooked for a cup wild card despite finishing ahead of Andrew Coltart in the qualifying table, the Scot instead chosen by European captain James to play at Brookline.

But the 30-year-old Swede, who ironically played with James in the first two rounds at Royal Zoute, proved just what he was capable of with a superb final round 66, five under par, to claim the £89,000 first prize.

His 12-under-par total of 272 left him one shot clear of England's Jamie Spence and South African Retief Goosen, the win taking him to 19th in the Order of Merit and in line for a place in the lucrative World Golf Championship event at Valderrama.

"I was obviously very disappointed about the Ryder Cup and it almost felt like the season was over," Karlsson admitted.

"Mark told me that he thought I hadn't played as well as Andrew after the US Open. It was a very difficult decision for him to take and actually if I was captain I would have picked Bernhard Langer because it was such an inexperienced team.

"It was a bit tense playing with Mark in the first two rounds but it was good to play with him and get it out of the way because I've got nothing against him and I think he did a good job as captain.

"That's behind me now and this win makes up for it. I had been really tired after playing three events in America and turned down the chance to play in another US Tour event and the Dunhill Cup for Sweden.

"But it was well worth it. I didn't touch the clubs for two and a half weeks and this week was the first time I felt really fresh coming into a tournament.

"I'll hopefully play the next two weeks and then have a long winter break and play fewer tournaments next year."

Karlsson began the final round three shots off the lead but after playing the first seven holes in level par, rattled in four birdies in five holes around the turn to move to the top of the leaderboard.

A second bogey of the day on the 13th halted his charge but he immediately picked up a shot on the next and gained the crucial cushion with a final birdie on the par five 17th.

Sweden's Per-Ulrik Johansson and New Zealander Greg Turner finished in a tie for fourth on nine under with four players tied for sixth a shot further behind.

One of those was Scotland's Stephen Gallacher who therefore secured his card for next season with an excellent final round 68.

Just two weeks ago the 24-year-old, nephew of former Ryder Cup captain Bernard, was 122nd in the money list and in severe danger of having to make a third trip to the Qualifying School.

But a top 10 finish in last week's Sarazen World Open got him a place in the field here and he made sure of his card in style, giving himself a perfect early wedding present into the bargain.

"The pressure started last week when I had to get into the top 10 to get a place here, it was top 10 or bust basically and I made two late birdies to finish tied for 10th," Gallacher said after collecting his biggest ever cheque for £15,042.

"Last night there was so much riding on it, I was just scared of not doing it basically. I tossed and turned a wee bit in my bed and didn't eat much this morning which is not like me.

"I get married in six days time in Bathgate (near Edinburgh) to Helen so it will be an even better wedding now. "We didn't know what to do about a honeymoon because of the chance I might have to go to the Qualifying School but we can now have a quick week away in Tenerife.

"Now I can also plan ahead and I hope I can keep on improving. The Qualifying School is horrendous. I've been twice and got my card twice but it's six days where every shot is under pressure.

"The last two weeks taught me a lot about myself. To do it when you need to is a good thing. I'm pleased for myself because I practice and work hard and it's paid off."

Arsenal fan Spence was also pleased with his display which earned him a cheque for £46,521 and completed a near-perfect weekend.

"I had a chance of winning which was nice after an average season. I was making most of the cuts but never being in there with a chance," said the 36-year-old from Tunbridge Wells.

"I seem to play well and come second but it was good to get up there. It's not a bad weekend after Arsenal's comeback against Chelsea. Maybe they inspired me!"

There was good and bad news for those battling to get into the top 115 on the money list to retain their cards in this, the last counting event of the season.

Scot Andrew Oldcorn made sure of his card despite only finishing tied for 36th while Welshman Paul Affleck clung on to the last place in 115th following an anxious wait after missing the cut.

Compatriot Mark Mouland was not so lucky, a last round 74 proving costly and leaving him facing a trip to the qualifying school alongside Sheffield's Malcolm Mackenzie, Barnsley's Stephen Field and former Ryder Cup player Joakim Haeggman.

Final Scores(Gbr & Irl unless stated, Par 71)(x) denotes amateur

272 R Karlsson (Swe) 69 68 69 66273 J Spence 70 68 68 67, R Goosen (SA) 65 71 67 70275 G Turner (NZ) 70 68 69 68, P-U Johansson (Swe) 69 66 70 70276 S Gallacher 72 70 66 68, P Broadhurst 73 69 68 66, T Bjorn (Den) 73 68 69 66, M Lanner (Swe) 72 68 70 66 277 D Smyth 70 70 68 69278 I Woosnam 70 70 68 70, S Tinning (Den) 70 69 69 70279 A Wall 72 71 66 70280 P Lawrie 73 69 68 70, B Langer (Ger) 72 70 71 67, J Van de Velde (Fr) 72 69 69 70, J Bickerton 69 71 69 71, JF Remesy (Fr) 72 68 68 72, S Kjeldsen (Den) 69 71 69 71, L Westwood 73 66 67 74, J Rivero (Sp) 67 71 72 70281 MA Martin (Sp) 72 70 66 73, R Winchester 75 66 71 69, G Owen 74 67 74 66, S Ballesteros (Sp) 69 74 69 69, T Levet (Fr) 71 72 69 69, N Vanhootegem (Bel) 69 74 67 71, P Baker 72 72 66 71, M Mouland 70 68 69 74282 J Coceres (Arg) 71 71 70 70, P McGinley 71 70 68 73, R Jacquelin (Fr) 72 69 67 74, B Davis 74 70 68 70, D Robertson 67 70 73 72, T Johnstone (Zim) 67 69 74 72284 A Oldcorn 73 69 71 71, P Eales 73 69 71 71, A Cejka (Ger) 68 73 71 72, P Price 69 70 72 73, M James 68 71 72 73 285 V Phillips 70 72 72 71, D Edlund (Swe) 71 70 71 73, P Walton 73 67 74 71, J Haeggman (Swe) 68 71 77 69, M Farry (Fr) 76 69 69 71286 R Claydon 71 71 71 73, D Clarke 73 67 72 74, A Beal 73 72 71 70, S Webster 71 74 70 71, P Mitchell 75 70 72 69287 F Cea (Sp) 69 73 72 73, T Gillis (US) 71 72 69 75, S Grappasonni (It) 75 69 71 72, M Mackenzie 72 72 71 72288 G Evans 73 70 70 75289 M Campbell (NZ) 72 70 75 72, B Lane 72 68 75 74, A Langenaeken (Bel) 74 70 71 74, D Cooper 74 70 73 72290 O Karlsson (Swe) 72 70 75 73, J Lomas 69 72 75 74291 S Struver (Ger) 76 69 71 75, T Immelman (SA) 72 73 76 70292 T Gogele (Ger) 70 73 72 77, R Muntz (Neth) 73 71 73 75, M Tunnicliff 75 69 73 75, D Gilford 76 69 71 76293 D Howell 68 74 75 76296 O Sellberg (Swe) 71 74 73 78Rtd: E Canonica (It)

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