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Sunday, 26 November 2006

(Reuters) – Justin Rose claimed his first European Tour title in over four years with a two shot triumph in the MasterCard Masters at Huntingdale Golf Club in Melbourne. The Englishman claimed the €170,353 (£115,359) first prize to move to fifth on the Order of Merit and 51st on the Official World Golf Ranking.
 
The 26 year old broke a drought which dated back to the 2002 Victor Chandler British Masters by posting a final round 73 to finish on 12 under-par 276, two ahead of fellow European Tour Member Richard Green and Green’s fellow Australian Greg Chalmers in the event co-sanctioned with the Australasian Tour.

“I cannot believe it's been four years,” said Rose, who became the first overseas winner of the title since Scotland's Colin Montgomerie in 2001 in this, the first year the tournament has featured fully on The European Tour International Schedule.

“It has been a big week confidence wise for me. I've had a few close calls this season but to win a tournament like this is great for my confidence,” added Rose who became the first sponsor’s invite to win since Kevin Stadler lifted the Johnnie Walker Classic in February.

Green and Chalmers finished on ten under par 278, one ahead of 21 year old Australian amateur Aaron Pike, who equalled the course record in the first round with 64 and who led at the halfway stage before eventually running out of steam.

Rose, who went into the final round with a two shot lead, reached the sixth quietly at one under for the day before apparent disaster struck at the long seventh in the shape of a triple bogey eight.

His tee shot found the sand and his second squirted off the face of the trap into an unplayable lie in the bushes. He chipped out before finding the back of the green and three-putting.

However, the Englishman showed great resilience to shake off the disappointment straight away with a birdie at the eighth before reaching the turn in one over par 37.

He was joined in the lead at 11 under par by Pike when the burly Australian holed his bunker shot for eagle three at the par five 14th, but crucial birdies at the 14th and 16th gave Rose breathing space.

He took an iron for safety at the 18th but found trouble on the right, but a brilliant recovery allowed Rose to par and secure his third European Tour title.

Green, the 2004 champion, had surged through the pack as the gusting wind and quickening greens made life difficult on the course in Melbourne's southern suburbs.

He fired a rare bogey-free 69 to set the clubhouse target as Rose and Pike battled for the advantage. Pike's eagle at the 14th brought him back into contention momentarily but he finished bogey-bogey, the latter after his 50-foot putt for birdie trickled into a greenside bunker.
 
Chalmers would have got closer to Rose but for his own nightmare at the par-four ninth, when he five putted -- four from less than six feet -- for triple bogey seven.

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