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Sunday, 08 October 2006

In a repeat of four years ago, Ireland’s Padraig Harrington lifted the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship trophy as well as the team prize in partnership with amateur JP McManus. Unlike 2002, the €630,566 first prize cheque had the additional benefit of thrusting Harrington into contention to win his first European Tour Order of Merit.

Victory at St Andrews moved Harrington up three places to second on the Order of Merit, just €218,185 behind Ryder Cup team-mate Paul Casey of England. And with Englishman David Howell close behind in third place, The 2006 European Tour season is guaranteed a thrilling climax at Valderrama in three weeks’ time.

That’s in the future and Harrington was happy to revel in the present after wrapping up his tenth European Tour title and his first for more than two years. He was good value for his five stroke victory over Welshman Bradley Dredge, American Edward Loar and England’s Anthony Wall after finishing as the only man in the field with all four rounds in the 60s.

His closing four under par 68 at the Home of Golf featured matching halves of 34 and no bogeys, for a winning aggregate of 16 under par 271.

“You don’t win too many tournaments when you can come down 18 knowing the job is done and it’s all the more special at St Andrews when you’ve got the crowds there. There is no more special place than this and I am pleased that I did it in style today,” commented Harrington, who confirmed that he will now play the Mallorca Classic in a bid to gain more ground on Casey.

Dredge, who had played impressively for three days that included a new course record 64 at the lengthened Old Course, stumbled over the back nine to finish with a two over par 74.

The turning point came with a three stroke swing at the 11th, Harrington making a birdie two while Dredge took five after finding the sand.

“I hit a really, really good iron shot. I thought it was perfect. It was downwind and I thought eight iron would be good. It was straight down the flag only to see it disappear in the bunker. From there I didn’t have a shot,” rued the Welshman, winner of the Omega European Masters a month ago.

Dredge put some gloss on a disappointing final round by holing from 25 foot for a birdie three at the last. That putt was worth around €70,000 as it earned him a share of second place on 11 under par alongside Loar and Wall, who closed with scores of 70 and 67 respectively.

“It was worth a few bob and I was quite aware of that. I didn’t have a very good day so it was nice to finish with a plus. This helps my Order of Merit position as I want to finish the season inside the top 15,” commented Dredge, who replaced Wall in 19th place after the Englishman jumped to 12th.

Wall’s final round of 67 was all the more remarkable because he was struggling with a torn muscle in his arm. “To have a week like this after that happening is very pleasing. To finish in the top 15 in the Order of Merit would be huge. I would love to go on next year and play with the really big boys.”

Loar had that honour as he partnered Ernie Els - who eagled the 18th to finish in fifth place - and World Number Five Vijay Singh in the final round, and the cool-headed Texan was certainly not overawed as he compiled a 70 to complete the biggest week of his golfing life.

There were contrasting emotions for Mark Roe, who brought the curtain down on 21 years as a Tour professional in fine style with a round of 67. The emotion of the occasion was there for all to see as the Englishman walked off the ninth green and into the arms of wife Julia and six year old twins Alexandra and Emily.

Roe, a three-time winner on The European Tour, said: “I wanted to finish on the Old Course. I played in a bit of a blur today. I wasn’t really worried whether I played well or not to be honest, it was just so nice to be out there. Obviously the professional side of you means you are always trying to do your best, so I am delighted to have shot 67 in my last ever round, especially on the Old Course

“It was very emotional. Everyone has a choice to make at some point, about when is the right time to retire. So many things have brought me to this decision and it just feels like the right time for me.”

The team competition was won by Harrington and McManus with a 72 hole betterball aggregate of 35 under par 252, five strokes ahead of Angel Cabrera and son Federico. Third place was shared by Robert Karlsson / Dermot Desmond and Johan Edfors / Mats Andersson.

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