Sunday, June 1, 2008

Scott Strange Wins Manor Wales Open

IF the 2008 Celtic Manor Wales Open is looked back upon as the “Strange Open”, it will be because of one man’s complete dominance rather than any odd golfing goings-on.

Scott Strange left the rest of the field trailing in his wake from the very first day to claim his maiden European Tour victory, repelling a spirited challenge by former winner Robert Karlsson with a superb bogey-free round of 64.

At 22-under-par, Strange broke Ian Poulter’s record total for the tournament on the Wentwood Hills course by four strokes, and joined Poulter and Paul McGinley in becoming a wire-to-wire winner at Newport.

He had felt so unwell on the 15th tee during the third round that he almost collapsed.

But if the chasing pack, which included Nick Dougherty and Ryder Cup star Darren Clarke, were banking on the Australian producing a final-round wobble, they were soon sorely disappointed.

The first of seven birdies came on the par-five second, and having produced four more by the ninth hole, he reached the turn in just 31 shots.

Strange had one hand on the trophy, but Karlsson was doing his best to wrestle it from his grasp.

The statuesque Swede emerged as the Aussie’s nearest challenger, a string of birdies closing the gap to just two shots at one point.

But when Karlsson eventually slipped up, Strange marched relentlessly on, only an understandably anxious tee shot on 18 betraying any sign of nerves.

“I had no idea Robert was chasing me until I asked my caddie what sort of lead I had on 15,” said the 31-year-old, who picks up a winner’s cheque for £300,000.

“I was seven-under for the day, so I knew someone would have had to produce something exceptional to catch me.

“I think people were expecting me to slip up a little bit, but I had nothing to prove or lose and everything to gain.

“All you can do when you’re leading a tournament is go out there and play.

“If you start thinking about other players and what they’re doing, then you’re in trouble.”

Strange confessed that the ill-effects he suffered on Saturday had not completely disappeared by the time he teed off for his final round on the brand new Ryder Cup course.

“I was still a bit dodgy this morning and wasn’t 100 per cent,” he said.

“As the day progressed, though, I got better and better.

“It was almost the perfect round of golf.

“There was a fair bit going on in my head on the final tee and I was a bit numb.

“I should have taken a few deep breaths, but pushed it into the rough.

“I calmed myself down, got it back in play and managed to finish it off.”

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