Owen masters the finishing stretch to land first Tour title

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The Independent Online

For a man who had never finished better than third on the European Tour, a six-stroke lead with four holes to play amounted to a luxury for Greg Owen. Bogeys at the next two holes was not quite what he wanted but by the time he had found the green at the par-five 17th in two a smile was in order.

A birdie there and a bogey at the last - not for him any concern over the nearest-the-pin challenge - and Owen had won the British Masters as his maiden title. It had taken 158 tournaments and a number of near-misses. He led during the final round of the Portuguese Open in April, and was tied for the lead when he missed a four-footer for birdie at the 17th. He ended up bogeying the last two holes to be fifth.

"I am glad I can learn from experiences like that," Owen said. "I scrambled my way in but the way I played the 17th showed me I can handle it when I need to. I was beating myself up after Portugal but I was a lot calmer today, I didn't try to force things. Days like this are meant to be. To win in England at this event is a dream come true."

Perhaps no longer will friends from the Coxmoor club ask for tickets and then go off after a few holes to watch bigger fry. "There were a lot of friendly faces out there today who hadn't asked for tickets and it was fantastic to get that support."

A final round of 71 gave the 31-year-old from Mansfield a three-stroke win over Ian Poulter and Christian Cevaer. The Frenchman, who is recovering from an injured elbow, birdied the last two holes but this was a very English affair, played out as it was in Shakespeare country and just a mile or two from Meriden, the village at the centre of England.

This was the sixth victory by an Englishman on the European Tour this year and keeps the title at home - prior to Justin Rose last year there had not been an English winner since Peter Baker in 1993. Poulter, who equalled the course record with a 63 on Saturday, could not quite pull off a second successive victory after his Wales Open triumph a week ago.

Poulter birdied the fifth, the sixth and the seventh holes but Owen responded with a hat-trick of his own from the sixth. A nasty squall of wind and rain also tried its best to disrupt Owen's victory march but he was not for turning.

Owen won £250,000 and was garbed in a gown and mortarboard. A £35,000 Jaguar, however, went to Jorge Berendt for his tee shot at the 211-yard 18th to two feet and nine inches.

Darren Clarke, with a 66, and the defending champion, Rose, after a 67, departed for Chicago and this week's US Open in upbeat mood. Holing a 15-footer at the last for a second successive birdie was particularly satisfying for Clarke.

"I've had 29 putts today," he said. "That's the first time I've had less than 30 putts all year." The statistic may not be definitive but it sums up the Irishman's season. His long game has been remarkably consistent given the frustration associated with not being able to capitalise on it with his putting.

A third win on one of his favourite courses was not a possibility after two lacklustre opening rounds. "I played the worst I have all year because I had fallen back into some old habits with my posture after a week off," he said. "But after correcting that I was back to how I have played all season."

Robert Rock, the teaching professional from nearby Tamworth, finished with a 68 to be joint fourth. It was the best result in a tremendous run for the man from Swingers driving range, which started with his invitation to the Benson & Hedges International at The Belfry last month.

Rock, who won the Midlands PGA order of merit last year, is on the verge of sealing his card for the rest of the season and has the opportunity to gain further ground after qualifying for a spot in the Diageo Championship at Gleneagles in two weeks' time. "I didn't know a top-10 finish here got me into Gleneagles but maybe that was a good thing," he said. "It's a great thing to look forward to. When I started off at The Belfry I didn't really have any expectations. I just wanted to put up a decent performance for the guys in my region."

LEADING FINAL SCORES FROM BRITISH MASTERS GB or Irl unless stated

274 G Owen 68 68 67 71 (£250,000). 277 C Cevaer (Fr) 73 70 66 68; I Poulter 71 73 63 70 (£130,280 each). 280 D Clarke 71 71 72 66; R Rock 73 69 70 68; A Wall 72 70 67 71 (£63,700 each). 281 R Jacquelin (Fr) 70 72 72 67; S Gallacher 69 71 71 70 ; J Berendt (Arg) 72 72 67 70; D Lynn 66 71 71 73. 282 S Kjeldsen (Den) 70 73 70 69; H Stenson (Swe) 69 74 70 69; F Andersson (Swe) 74 70 68 70; M Gronberg (Swe) 73 71 66 72; R Green (Aus) 70 66 71 75. 283 R Karlsson (Swe) 75 69 69 70; I Garrido (Sp) 67 72 73 71; N O'Hern (Aus) 72 70 70 71; M Siem (Ger) 66 71 74 72; P Golding 69 73 69 72; M Roe 71 70 69 73; D Fichardt (SA) 72 66 71 74; M Lundberg (Swe) 69 69 71 74. 284 J Rose 69 75 73 67; G Orr 72 72 72 68; J Moseley (Aus) 70 73 70 71; A Coltart 68 73 70 73; D Howell 72 71 67 74; B Lane 73 68 68 75. 285 D Gilford 70 73 71 71; G Havret (Fr) 73 71 70 71; P Sjoland (Swe) 70 72 71 72; M Brier (Aut) 71 72 70 72; P Baker 69 74 68 74; P Fowler (Aus) 65 75 69 76.

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