Friday, 19 March 2010

Reuters - England's Justin Rose rubber-stamped his European Tour Order of Merit victory by winning a dramatic three-way play-off for the Volvo Masters at Valderrama.

Simply securing a place in the sudden-death play-off with fellow Englishman Simon Dyson and Denmark's Søren Kjeldsen was sufficient to guarantee Rose the Harry Vardon Trophy for the first time.

For good measure, he made it a double celebration by beating his opponents with a 15 foot birdie at the tenth - the second hole of sudden-death.

The trio had finished on a one under par total of 283, two strokes better than Rose's rival for the Order of Merit, Irishman Padraig Harrington and Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell, who sprang into contention with a stupendous albatross two at the 17th.

After the trio made pars fours at the 18th (the first extra hole), Rose holed from 15 feet to take the €666,660 first prize and the 27 year old was delighted and relieved not to have slipped at the end after starting the day four strokes ahead of the field.

He had moved to five under par by the turn and maintained his overnight lead but then came a dramatic struggle against the course and the elements, a double-bogey on the long 11th beginning a worrying run of four dropped shots in five holes to card a 74.

Kjeldsen, with a closing 67, might have won outright but for a bogey at the last while McDowell, after holing a seven iron from 186 yards, made a double bogey six at the 18th to miss out on a play-off.

"It is a relief, I don't think there is an easy way of doing it," a beaming Rose commented after the epic contest - one of the best in the 20 editions of the Volvo Masters.

"It was terrible. I made a couple of mental errors. I told myself to keep grinding out, though. On the 16th it looked dire when I was 50ft from the flag. Two putts there were the key to hanging on. I could have lost everything, the Order of Merit as well as the tournament.

"Then, just getting into a play-off would not have been consolation; I want to win tournaments," Rose said.

On his Order of Merit success, as he finished €448,708 in front of the absent Ernie Els of South Africa with defending Vardon Trophy champion back in third, Rose said: "The key to it has been my consistency, with a win last year and three second places this year.

"It wasn't a goal earlier but when I finished second in the WGC - Bridgestone Invitational, I began to realise it was possible and this is now an amazing icing on the cake."

Rose's victory took him to seventh place on the Official World Golf Ranking, a leap of five places, by leapfrogging Harrington, who is in eighth. He is also now 424,877 points ahead on Europe's Ryder Cup European points list.

It is all a long way from 1998 when he finished fourth in The Open at Royal Birkdale as an amateur.

"Birkdale was a complete fairy tale," he added. "This has taken a lot of preparation and professional approach. Birkdale was more a case of 'wow, where did that come from'"?

Kjeldsen, starting the week 30th on the Order of Merit, went in search of his second title with a blazing start, picking up six threes, including four birdies, in the first seven holes for a 67.

Dyson, playing with Rose, made his move with four birdies on the back nine, shooting a 70. Bogeys by Kjeldsen first, then Rose and Dyson, sent the tournament into extra holes.

Open Champion Harrington finally lost the chance of retaining his Order of Merit honour when he missed a five foot birdie putt on the treacherous 17th and that subsequently prevented him overtaking Els, too, as he finished third on the money-list.

The Irishman, starting the day four shots behind Rose, failed to take full advantage of the Englishman's frailties by missing two other putts not much longer than that.

Harrington called it "a chance lost," adding. "I putted terribly. If Justin had finished five under I wouldn't be so disappointed but the winning score - one under par - was achievable. I just wasn't in the zone and I wasn't focussed. It was hard work all day."

Dyson,who finished the season in 26th place, commented: "I played great. This isn't one of my favourite courses, to be honest, but it shows my mental strength.It was a good week."

Kjeldsen, like Dyson, missed his birdie putt on the second extra hole and had to settle for a share of second place. I was obviously disappointed not to make par on the last but it's been fantastic this week. I've had a wonderful time."

Among the hard luck stories, McDowell's was the most dramatic, as he finished albatross-double bogey. He rued a missed tee shot at the 18th when the adrenaline was still flowing and he said: "Effectively, I finished the equivalent of birdie-par and in the circumstances I would have taken that.

"It was one of these magic moment that happen in golf. It was an unbelievable feeling to do on Sunday of the Volvo Masters at Valderrama. I had to try to calm myself down on the 18th tee but it wasn't easy and I hit a bad shot."


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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
T1DYSON, SimonENG18-1
T1ROSE, JustinENG18-1
6KAYMER, MartinGER184
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