Sunday, 20 February 2000
Sweden's Eric Carlberg completed his first professional victory after a six-year wait when he won the Challenge de España at Badajoz, the opening event on the 2000 European Challenge Tour.

The 25-year-old, who had dominated the tournament after an opening 64, carded a closing 72 for 17-under-par 271 and a five stroke winning margin over Spain's Carlos Rodiles with another Spaniard, Francis Valera third on 277.

Raimo Sjöberg, also from Sweden, who carded 66 in round three, closed with 70 for fourth place on 278.

Even though Carlberg went into the final round leading by nine, he admitted he didn't feel at ease. "I missed gaining my card by a single shot last year and I had a lot of top-10s without winning so I wasn't taking anything for granted," he said.

"I knew that if I started with a couple of bogeys and Francis or Raimo gained a couple of birdies the gap could close rapidly. When I three-putted the third it was down to seven but I managed to birdie the fifth to extend my lead to eight.

"Even then I wasn't comfortable and I didn't feel I had the tournament won until I teed off at the 18th. But I'm delighted to have won at last. This has given my season a great start and provided the factor that was missing last year. Now if I can gain a couple more wins I'll get my card and be playing on the main Tour next year."

Carlberg felt the secret of his success was taking two months off after the Tour School during which he spent two weeks in the Maldives, and then practising for a fortnight in the sunshine of Florida. "I practised every day and played about nine rounds so I came here in good shape."

Carl Watts, who lost his card after an injury-bedevilled 1999, was Carlberg's nearest challenger after 36 holes, but he couldn't maintain it and a closing 70 saw him finish joint fifth on 279, nine under, with Dorset's Lee James, who returned a 68.

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