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Sunday, 20 June 2004
Bill Longmuir came back from the dead to steal victory from under the nose of Japan’s Seiji Ebihara on the final hole of a dramatic final day at a blustery Oxfordshire Golf Club.

Three birdies in the closing four holes gave the Essex-based Scot the kiss of life after he looked out of the hunt when trailing Ebihara by three strokes through 14 holes.

But birdies at the 15th, 17th and 18th saw Longmuir sign for a 67 and 207, nine under par, while Ebihara dropped a shot at the last, also for 67, and 208.

Longmuir, who began the day five strokes behind fellow Scot Mike Miller, the overnight leader, produced a blistering front nine of 31 to get to nine under. But a bogey five at the 12th followed by a double bogey five at the short 13th, where he found the water, seemed to end his hopes.

"After 13 I felt off the pace," said the man from Wickford. "But I holed from ten feet at the 15th, hit a great bunker shot at 17 to five feet for another birdie, then sank it from 18 feet for a three at the last.

"I knew I needed a birdie at the last to tie with Seiji and when I saw him miss his putt at the last I didn’t know whether it was for a four of a three. Then when we got to the green the leader board had changed and I saw he had made bogey.

"This is an incredible game. I’ve had a frustrating start to the year. Nothing’s gone right although I’ve played well but I keep doing crazy things. I had a ten on one hole in Jersey last week then today I almost lost a ball on the 12th by driving so wide, while at 13 I hit seven iron that flew the green and finished in the water.

"Yet I got off to a flier, hitting great shots and holing a lot of putts on the front nine. I think all the problems are caused through frustration.

"But this win gets me up the Order of Merit (he has moved up to sixth) somewhere near Carl Mason, who is setting the targets again. We are all trying to get close to him. It was sad to see him pull out because I was looking forward to playing with him for the first time this year."

Ebihara, six behind at the start of the day, was also out in 31 and when he birdied the 11th he was in a four-way tie for the lead on nine under with Longmuir, Miller, and American Steve Stull.

Then when the other three fell away, the 55 year old Japanese seemed to have the title wrapped up. But he drove into a trap at the last, had to play short of the green, then missed his par putt which was to prove costly.

It was also a disappointing day for Miller, who had four bogeys in his last ten holes for a 74 to finish third on 209.

"The putter went cold on me again. I didn’t hole a single putt all day," he said.

Guiseppe Cali from Italy closed with 68 for fourth place on 210, while Stull, Argentina’s Luis Carbonetti (74), Martin Gray from Scotland (67) and Canadian Bill Hardwick tied for fifth on 211.

Hardwick, who teed-off in joint second spot, was disappointed with his single-birdie 74 but he had the consolation of picking up the Super Seniors prize.

A bad back forced Mason, the defending champion, to pull out before the start of the final round.

Having shot a first round 65, his back went into spasm on Saturday morning and although he completed the second round in 74 to lie joint fifth, four strokes off the pace, the problem was too acute for him to continue.

"The back was bad on Saturday evening and I had no option but to withdraw," he said. "I’ve got to wait for the spasm to go and then get some treatment.

"Something is out of line and needs clicking back into place. It’s never a good time to pull out and it’s particularly disappointing because The Oxfordshire is local for me."

It is the second time this year that Mason has been forced out of a tournament following his withdrawal from the Open de France Seniors. "But that was a different injury," he added.

Mason is due to play in the coming week’s De Vere Northumberland Seniors Classic at Slaley Hall but says: "We’ll just have to wait and see."

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