Birdie bursts from the Ryder Cup pair Darren Clarke and Robert Karlsson were not enough to stop the Australian Scott Strange completing an impressive victory in the Wales Open here yesterday.
The 31-year-old from Perth, never previously higher than 10th on European soil and ranked only 164th in the world, showed himself to be a front-runner of real substance on the new course built to stage the 2010 Ryder Cup.
Never caught from the moment he opened with a 63 on Thursday, Strange produced a flawless closing 64, the joint-best of the day, to win with a superb 22-under-par total of 262.
Karlsson, third in his previous three events, also shot 64 but finished four shots back in second place, while Clarke's 66 – it promised to be so much better the way he started – lifted him from 14th into a tie for fourth, albeit nine strokes adrift of Strange.
Last night Strange decided to celebrate his first European Tour win rather than head immediately to Surrey for a US Open qualifying tournament. He said he was pulling out of today's 36-hole event at Walton Heath – just like more than 20 other European Tour players have already.
"I'm going to stay the night and have a couple of drinks," said Strange. Although refusing to go into details, he added that his win would "put a smile on a very special person's face". He added: "There was a fair bit going on in my head on the final tee and I was a bit numb. I should have taken a few deep breaths."
After suffering a dizzy spell on the course in his third round, Strange said he was still not 100 per cent when he woke up yesterday. "As the day progressed, though, I got better and better."
Karlsson, who had six successive birdies around the turn to be only two behind at that stage, commented: "I played really, really well. I saw a leaderboard out of the corner of my eye on hole eight. I thought I was off to a good start and I was five behind – I was like 'what's happening here?' I thought maybe I'll sneak up on him."
Clarke, the only player to achieve two rounds of 60 in European Tour history, birdied five of the first seven holes to be only three behind. But then the Ulsterman made a shocking five-iron shot into the water on the short 13th hole and that was effectively the end of his challenge for the £300,000 first prize.