Magnificent victory for inspired Clarke

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The Independent Online

An inspired Darren Clarke got the better of Tiger Woods again in yet another million-dollar duel yesterday when he completed an impressive four-stroke victory at the NEC Invitational here.

Clarke, who beat the world No 1 in the final of the 2000 Andersen Consulting World Match Play in California, clutched another seven-figure cheque after a closing round of 67. With a 12-under-par total of 268 the 34-year-old, ending a 14-month barren spell, won by four strokes from the American Jonathan Kaye. Woods fell back on the back nine to tie for fourth with Chris Riley behind Davis Love.

"It has always been one of my goals to win a stroke play event in America," a jubilant Clarke said.

Woods had won on his previous three visits to Firestone and after he closed from five behind to only two back on the outward half a fourth success could not be ruled out. But Clarke, who made a spectacular start with a 14-foot eagle putt on the second and an eight-footer at the fourth, continued to look serenely confident and enjoyed the unexpected bonus of a 55-foot birdie putt on the 13th.

The first prize of $1,050,000 (£650,000), the biggest of his career, was in his sights when Woods, in the group ahead, bogeyed the 12th and 13th. Clarke's failure to get up and down from sand on the short 15th increased the tension and he also dropped a shot at the 667-yard 16th by three-putting, but the chasing Kaye also bogeyed. A solid par on the 17th meant he took a four-stroke cushion to the last and once his drive was away he was home and dry.

Paul Casey improved to joint eighth place before having four bogeys in a row from the 13th and had to settle for a level-par 70 and one under aggregate. He finished joint 17th.

Colin Montgomerie's 73 left him one over, Ian Poulter (75) and Justin Rose (69) were three over, Lee Westwood shot 73 for six over and Paul McGinley managed only a 75 to finish nine over. Phil Golding shot 72 for 10 over, Phillip Price a 74 for 12 over and Nick Faldo a 75 for 15 over.