Johansson eases; Ryder Cup cares

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Mathematical probability suggested that the fifth first-time winner of the season was about to be crowned here yesterday. The leaderboard was populated by those for whom the Alamo English Open would have represented a maiden title.

Experience, however, won the day for Per-Ulrik Johansson. The 30-year- old Swede has won and, equally significantly, lost before, including this title five years ago. His closing round of 67, added to his third round of 64, took him two clear of his countryman Dennis Edlund, with Steve Webster and Jay Townsend one further back. The 22-year-old Webster has finished fourth and now third in his last three events, but there is no room for him in the PGA Championship at Wentworth this week.

This was Johansson's fourth victory on tour and, importantly, his second in the current qualifying period for the Ryder Cup team. The first prize of pounds 108,330 gives him 304,945 points and puts him third in the standings. He has far more than the 10th man needed for the last spot two years ago, but inflation and the quirks of the system suggest upwards of 340,000 points may be needed this time.

"I'm looking pretty good, but it's not sure yet," Johansson, who lost to his college team-mate Phil Mickelson in the bottom match at Oak Hill, said. "If I make it, I'm still going to be as nervous as shit on the first tee. But that is not my only goal. I've never finished better than 15th on the Order of Merit. Someone needs to challenge Monty. It's getting ridiculous him winning every year."

Edlund, who was so disillusioned with his game at the end of 1995 he nearly quit, capped his three birdies in as many holes with a four-iron to four feet at the fourth. He kept the lead until Johansson made his move just after the turn. From an awkward lie just above a bunker at the 10th, he chipped in for a birdie. Two holes later he holed from 15 feet to go two in front for the first time. "I hit a perfect five-iron and it was nice to hole the putt," Johansson said. "It was a big turn around."

So the 393rd tournament of Roger Chapman's career went the way of all the rest. The leader after 36 holes at 12 under, Chapman could only progress by three more shots over the weekend. Gary Emerson, the club pro from Salisbury and South Wilts, took over on Saturday night but his dream of victory evaporated with four bogeys in five holes on the front nine. He raised a smile for his two-year-old daughter Georgina, however, by chipping in at the last for a 75.

As well as the finale to the English Open, yesterday doubled as a tune- up for the Andersen Consulting World Championship, which takes place today and tomorrow at The Buckinghamshire course at Denham. Sam Torrance returned his third successive round of 67 to be five behind Johansson, although his return to form was as mysterious to him as his lack of it for most of the year.

Torrance faces Ian Woosnam, who, like Bernhard Langer, was resting last week. Langer, after his back-to-back victories at the Italian Open and the B&H International, plays Darren Clarke, who had six birdies but five bogeys in his 71, while Colin Montgomerie seeks revenge against Jose Maria Olazabal.

The pair met in the final of the British Amateur at Formby in 1984, when Olazabal first impressed the brilliance of his short game on the Scot by holing shots from parts of the course other golfers would never have dreamt possible. Olazabal won 5 and 4.

"It was unbelievable," Montgomerie recalled. "He was incredible. I thought I was the favourite against an 18-year-old Spanish kid and I was wrong."

Both improved on their earlier form, Montgomerie closing with a 67 and Olazabal a 68. "I am still not scoring as I should," the Scot said. "I wasted a dozen or 15 shots this week. Maybe the Masters has a bit to do with it. It really hurt me mentally. I have also moved house and that is always stressful."

As wielders of long putters, Langer and Torrance will be interested in a report in a Sunday newspaper that the Royal & Ancient are examining the legality of the broomhandles. Although they will not be banned on length alone, the Rules of Golf Committee is apparently concerned that in using the putter like a pendulum, letting the weight of the putter do the work, a proper stroke as defined by Rule 14 is not being executed.

Any prospective ban could not be put in place for some time, and not without the support of the USGA, the joint sanctioning body for the rules. "If they ban it, I'll find another way. I'll kick it round," Torrance said.

ALAMO ENGLISH OPEN (Hanbury Manor, Herts) Leading final scores (GB and Irl unless stated): 269 P-U Johansson (Swe) 70 68 64 67. 271 D Edlund (Swe) 68 65 69 69. 272 J Townsend (US) 72 63 70 67; S Webster 68 66 70 68. 273 D Howell 70 70 66 67; R Chapman 66 66 71 70. 274 S Torrance 73 67 67 67; R Claydon 69 69 66 70. 275 M James 72 67 69 67. 276 G Orr 71 70 71 64; G Emerson 68 68 65 75. 277 C Montgomerie 72 68 70 67; S Grappasonni (It) 72 66 71 68; S Ames (Trin) 68 72 69 68; C Whitelaw (SA) 73 67 68 69; N Fasth (Swe) 70 70 68 69; P Price 73 68 67 69; I Garbutt 75 66 67 69; S McAllister 71 69 67 70; M A Martin (Sp) 73 68 66 70; D Clarke 72 64 70 71. 278 R Karlsson (Swe) 71 67 73 67; J M Olazabal (Sp) 69 72 69 68; P Lawrie 68 73 66 71; L Westwood 72 64 69 73. 279 D Carter 73 67 71 68; C Suneson (Sp) 68 74 69 68; R Davis (Aus) 72 68 70 69; M A Jimenez (Sp) 68 72 69 70; D Chopra (Swe) 70 70 68 71; P Baker 71 69 67 72; E Romero (Arg) 73 68 65 73.