Leaney avoids pitfalls to hold off Langer push

Stephen Leaney took a leaf out of the Tiger Woods manual in cruising to the Australian's second TNT Dutch Open in three years yesterday. A week ago Woods, the world No 1, ran away with the Open by restricting himself to two bogeys in 72 holes and avoiding all 112 bunkers at St Andrews. Leaney, 109 places lower in the rankings, rationed himself to just one bogey all week here, and did not visit a bunker either.

Stephen Leaney took a leaf out of the Tiger Woods manual in cruising to the Australian's second TNT Dutch Open in three years yesterday. A week ago Woods, the world No 1, ran away with the Open by restricting himself to two bogeys in 72 holes and avoiding all 112 bunkers at St Andrews. Leaney, 109 places lower in the rankings, rationed himself to just one bogey all week here, and did not visit a bunker either.

That was good enough to give the 31-year-old, winner at Hilversum in 1998, the £140,823 first prize by four strokes from Bernhard Langer with an impressive 19-under-par total of 269. He also revealed a Woods-like characteristic when he said that of the nine times he has taken a lead into the last round he has only lost once.

Three clear at the start of the final round, Leaney never allowed that to close by more than a shot and, after a 20-foot putt on the 371-yard seventh, he picked up further birdies at the three remaining par-fives.

It ended a 20-month barren spell for Leaney and after his closing 68 he said: "I bet there are other guys who made more birdies than me, but my main goal was not to make a bogey. I had total belief in my swing and I was really on mentally, which I've not been for the last six or eight months."

Langer, meanwhile, is still waiting for his first win since 1997, but the runners-up cheque of £93,882 took his European careers earnings past the £7m mark. Only Colin Montgomerie (£10m) is ahead of him.

At least Langer did not experience the same frustration as when he was second in last year's Greg Norman Holden International in Australia. On that occasion he had a triple-bogey at the closing short hole when a par three would have brought victory. "I had a great start to my round [two birdies in the first four], but couldn't keep it going," he said. "One or two wild drives cost me, but Stephen was always three or four in front of me and it was a pretty comfortable margin."

Lee Westwood would have gone top of the European Order of Merit by retaining the title he grabbed with a closing 63 last year. With Leaney so solid he needed the same score, but instead a 69 proved insufficient.

"I really didn't play very well all week," confessed Westwood, who nevertheless became the third man to win more than £1m in Europe this season. "I didn't feel comfortable over the ball, so to finish third was pretty reasonable. The longest putt I holed all week was from 18 feet and I would expect to make some from further than that." He had 111 putts over the four rounds, whereas Leaney's 104 was the best of the week.

Darren Clarke also failed to climb into the No 1 spot he lost to Ernie Els at the Open. The Ulsterman had to finish in the top eight, but a last-day 71 left him 17th.

TNT DUTCH OPEN (Noordwijkse, Neth) (GB or Irl unless stated:

269 S Leaney (Aus) 66 70 65 68. 273 B Langer (Ger) 69 68 68 68. 274 A Cabrera (Arg) 68 69 69 68; M Gronberg (Swe) 68 68 69 69; L Westwood 67 72 66 69. 275 R Wessels (SA) 73 69 68 65. 276 G Owen 68 73 69 66; S Luna (Sp) 68 69 71 68; J Rivero (Sp) 70 68 69 69, S Allan (Aus) 68 67 69 72. Selected: 277 M Mouland 67 70 72 68. 278 G Brand Jnr 72 71 72 63; P O'Malley (Aus) 70 69 71 68. 281 P Harrington 69 70 73 69.

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