Khan strikes another blow for journeymen

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The Independent Online

The charge of the unknown golfer continues apace. For Scott Drummond at Wentworth the week before, read Simon Khan here yesterday as the Essex golfer ranked 255 in the world overhauled the seemingly impregnable lead of a quite stunned Paul Casey to win on the second-extra hole of the Wales Open.

At this rate they will have to scrap the world rankings for a more reliable form guide. How about inside leg measurements? Maybe that way you could have been able to pick out Khan, who stands at 6ft 4in, from the rest of the field. Because nothing else in the form-book would have pointed you towards this 31-year-old Arsenal fan winning here, let alone from pulling back a four-shot deficit with seven to play from the highest-ranked Englishman in the game.

Khan has been through tour qualifying school six times and this season his highest-placed finish had been a tie for 16th at the Seville Open in April. As recently as 1999, he was earning a living as a London taxi driver. But inspired by the heroics of his good friend Drummond, and armed with a new putter, Khan threw off 13 years of being a journeyman to complete his most lucrative journey of all to collect the £250,000 first prize. This is £221,620,000 more than his previous biggest cheque and, indeed, represented almost £33,000 more than his entire professional earnings up to this season.

"Scott came to my mind a few times out there and I thought what would he have done," said Khan. "Watching him winning last Sunday got me thinking that it's so easy on tour to get in the trap of just going for a good finish. So this week I thought,'let's try and win it'. I hope Scott and I have started a trend. It's all about self belief. I never stopped believing even when I was that London cabbie."

Khan, who posted a course record 61 in the second round, had spoken on Saturday night of the need to get the birdie-show on the road early in the inviting opening holes of the Wentwood Hills course, but even he could not have envisaged the start he got. Three behind Casey overnight, within 15 minutes he found himself only one to the bad after his playing partner had taken bogey with a missed three-footer and he had rolled in a 20-footer for his birdie.

However, the lead was three again as Casey found his touch, although Khan did pull one back by the turn. On the 10th, Casey moved to 21-under and restored his three-shot advantage. He was in full swagger now and the record Welsh crowd - which, topping 17,000, was more than 15 per cent up on last year - thought they had the tournament's fifth winner, especially when he went four clear with seven holes remaining. How wrong they were. Khan was not for quitting. He pulled one back on the 12th as Casey bogeyed, another on the 14th when he birdied, and when Casey racked up a double bogey after missing yet another short putt on the 15th, suddenly the lead was tied. The swagger had disappeared, replaced by a slow trudge that suggested Casey was fearing the worst. A Khan birdie on the 16th to grab the lead seemed to realise Casey's doubts, although at least he kept his composure to birdie the last to finish on 21-under.

Khan had a seven-footer to win it. He missed, much to the consternation of his wife, Lesley, who had everything but a babe in her arms as the Khans set about emulating the Drummonds.

The pair retreated to the 18th tee for a sudden death play-off, not once but twice as both took fives on the first visit. On the second visit, Casey's capitulation was complete when he took six after pushing his second, and Khan was left with three to win it.

Back in third place came Jean-Francois Remesy, the Frenchman who celebrated the second day of his 41st year with a 65 to finish at 18 under, two clear of Australia's Nick O'Hern. At least in golf, if nowhere else, life really can begin at 40. Or in Khan's case, 31.

WALES OPEN (Celtic Manor) Leading final scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 267 S Khan 69 61 70 67; P Casey 69 63 65 70(Khan won at second play-off hole). 271 J-F Remesy (Fr) 71 69 66 65. 273 N O'Hern (Aus) 70 67 68 68. 274 M Maritz (SA) 69 71 67 67; D Howell 65 74 67 68; A Forsyth 74 66 65 69; J Bickerton 70 71 63 70. 276 S Dodd 70 69 67 70; I Poulter 71 69 66 70; J Kingston (Rsa) 70 66 66 74. 277 P O'Malley (Aus) 70 71 68 68; M Olander (Swe) 72 66 69 70; T Levet (Fra) 69 71 67 70. Selected: 278 C Montgomerie 67 68 69 74. 279 I Woosnam 71 69 69 70.