Westwood's late charge fails to catch Karlsson

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The Independent Online

Seven years after being overlooked for a Ryder Cup wild card, Robert Karlsson took a massive step towards an automatic place in the European team yesterday. The Swede came close to making the team in 1999, finishing 11th in the standings and ninth in the final counting event in Munich before being overlooked for a wild card by the captain Mark James.

Karlsson took his second European Tour title in two months at the Deutsche Bank Players' Championship to move into seventh in the standings with five weeks left before the team is finalised. The 36-year-old hit a 67 for a 25-under-par total of 263 at Gut Kaden and a four-shot win over Lee Westwood, who birdied three of the last four holes for a 69, and South Africa's Charl Schwartzel (65).

The Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell celebrated his 27th birthday with a closing 65 to share fourth with the world No 5 Retief Goosen, Argentina's Andres Romero and Italy's Emanuele Canonica. The Ryder Cup captain Ian Woosnam managed only a closing 72 for a share of 11th.

A long birdie putt on the seventh took Karlsson five clear of the pack but Romero birdied four out of five holes from the ninth to get within two shots. Karlsson responded with a birdie on the 11th and was given a helping hand when Romero ran up a double-bogey five on the 14th. That effectively sealed victory and Karlsson could afford the luxury of losing a ball on the 18th for a double-bogey six.

Westwood, who moved to 21st in the Cup standings with his best finish this season, said: "Even after the fourth I felt like I had a chance, especially when I birdied the 10th to get within three shots. But when Robert hit two great shots into the 11th for birdie and I three-putted the 12th, that was it. But I was pleased to birdie three of the last four.

"The way I have been playing, second is not too bad. I have a couple of weeks off now and I am looking forward to the PGA... I should be in the top 50 now so I'm quite positive for the rest of the year."

McDowell gave his slim Ryder Cup chances a boost with two rounds of 65 over the weekend but will not chase more points over the next two weeks in favour of a much-needed rest.

"That's a nice birthday present but it's not going to get me rushing to Sweden [for the Scandinavian Masters]," said McDowell, who led after the first round before fading to 61st. "I'm tired and knowing I had time off made me relax. I've made mistakes with my schedule this year, playing too much."

In the States, Corey Pavin needing one more solid round to end a 10-year winless streak on the PGA Tour, hit an eagle on the eighth to move four clear last night. Pavin hit a two-under-par 68 in Wisconsin on Saturday to move to 17 under, two shots ahead of Jerry Kelly, after three rounds of the US Bank Championship.

The Australian Karrie Webb denied the 16-year-old Michelle Wie her breakthrough professional win and also left England's Laura Davies disappointed when she shot a final-round 68 to win the Evian Masters in France on Saturday. She finished on 16-under-par 272, one shot ahead of Davies, who shaved the hole from 12 feet for an eagle at the 18th in a 67, and Wie, who also birdied the last for a 68. "I think this is the closest I've gotten to winning," Wie said.

Great Britain and Ireland produced a couple of escape acts to prolong the 34th Curtis Cup against the United States in Oregon last night. Trailing 7-2, the British team captured the session two-and-a-half to a-half to go into the singles three behind.

Martina Gillen and Naomi Edwards produced a fine result against Paige McKenzie and Amanda Blumenherst. One down most of the way they squared at the 16th and went in front for the first time at the 17th. A half at the next gave them a vital point.

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