McDowell's triumph raises Detroit hopes

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The Independent Online

Graeme McDowell claimed the second European Tour victory of his short professional career with a play-off triumph over Thomas Levet in the Italian Open here yesterday and the Ulsterman immediately targeted another win to bolster his Ryder Cup hopes.

The Ballymoney-born golfer won at the fourth-extra hole with a par four after his French opponent's approach to the 18th at Castello di Tolcinasco found the greenside lake and he failed to chip in after a penalty drop.

His debut victory came at the Scandinavian Masters back in 2002 in only his fourth Tour start but he failed to claim another top-10 finish until the Madeira Open just over a month ago. But this rain-delayed victory, and the £133,552 prize money which came with it, lifted McDowell to 10th in the Order of Merit and raised hopes of securing a Ryder Cup berth in Detroit.

However, McDowell realises there is a long way to go before he can start contemplating doing battle against America's finest. "I've got to win again, but whatever happens, happens," he said. "I have to keep working hard from here."

McDowell had been tied for the lead overnight on 18 under with another Frenchman, Gregory Havret, in an event reduced to 54 holes and pushed into a fifth day by weekend storms. Havret failed to improve his score over his two remaining holes but a birdie four at the 15th put McDowell into the lead only to be pegged back when Levet, one hole ahead, birdied the par-four 17th. Scotland's Alastair Forsyth finished in fifth, while pre-tournament favourite, Ian Poulter, had too much to do in his final round and a 68 was good enough only for a tie for sixth.