Poulter's late rally seals first Tour win

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The Independent Online

England's Ian Poulter capped his rookie European Tour season in style with a one-stroke victory in the Italian Open in Cagliari yesterday.

England's Ian Poulter capped his rookie European Tour season in style with a one-stroke victory in the Italian Open in Cagliari yesterday.

Poulter birdied two of the last four holes to pip Scotland's Gordon Brand Jnr after trailing for much of the final day. The Australian left-hander Richard Green and Spain's Francisco Cea shared third on 18-under-par with the English duo Peter Baker and Van Phillips a shot further back.

"It feels absolutely fantastic," said Poulter who carded a final-round 69 for a 21-under-par total of 267. "Certainly better than an hour ago. I could see in front and heard a groan as Gordon dropped a shot on the last and knew I had four to win it."

Brand began the day four shots off the lead but had the lead on his own by the 10th after five birdies and looked set for his first win since 1993 when he picked up further shots on the 12th and 15th.

But he dropped his only shot of the day on the last after finding a greenside bunker to card a closing 66 and allow Poulter to gain his maiden triumph.

The 24-year-old from Hertfordshire had a three-shot lead overnight but saw that wiped out inside four holes by the Argentinian Ricardo Gonzalez and when he blew his chances with a seven at the eighth, it was Brand Jnr who took over.

Poulter could only manage 12 straight pars to start his round before finally getting going with a birdie on 13 and two more on 15 and 17 eventually proved enough.

The win puts Poulter some £61,502 ahead of Scotland's Alastair Forsyth in the race to be rookie of the year.

There was real disappointment for those who failed in a last-ditch bid to retain their playing cards for next season however. Justin Rose, Russell Claydon, Jeremy Robinson and Eamonn Darcy all went into the final round with a fighting chance.

Rose's 67 was not enough and he finished 123rd on the Order of Merit with only the top 115 earning their cards. Claydon was three places behind Rose on the money list with Robinson, who birdied the final hole of the school two years ago to win his card, in 130th. Irish veteran Darcy, 48, ended up 137th.

At the top of the Order of Merit, Lee Westwood increased his lead slightly by finishing alongside Eales, reserving his best round of the week until last with a 66.

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