Clarke Beaming With Win at BMW Asian Open

Sun 27 Apr 2008

Clarke Beaming With Win at BMW Asian Open

Shanghai, April 27: Irish eyes were smiling once again for Darren Clarke when he claimed an emotional victory with a heroic final-hole birdie at the BMW Asian Open on Sunday.
The Ulsterman drained a 30-foot putt on the 18th hole to beat a gallant Robert-Jan Derksen of the Netherlands by one shot and end his three-year title drought at Tomson Shanghai Pudong Golf Club.
It marked a welcome return to the winner?s circle for Clarke, who has endured a difficult past few years following the death of his wife Heather through cancer in 2006 and a dip in form.
Clarke carded a final round of one-over-par 73 in tough conditions for an eight-under-par 280 aggregate to secure his 11th career victory on the European Tour and his first since the 2005 Taiheiyo Masters in Japan.
Chinese Taipei?s Lin Wen-tang holed a 25-foot birdie on the 18th for a 72 to earn a share of third place, three behind the winner as he finished as the top Asian in the US$2.3 million event sanctioned by the Asian Tour, European Tour and China Golf Association.

?This one is very special,? said a jubilant Clarke, who screamed in delight after his putt disappeared into the cup at the last. ?This is the toughest one of all of them and it?s nice to get back up to where I feel my golf should be. It?s nice to win again and it?s a really, really good feeling.?

In what is his maiden visit to China, Clarke, the third round leader, dropped a bogey on the third before recovering with birdies on the fifth and 10th to stay in front of playing partner Derksen, who also signed off with a 73.

But three bogeys over a four-hole stretch from the 14th opened the door for Derksen but Clarke had the final say and holed his winning putt which looked as if he had help from the golfing gods.

"Sometimes things are meant to happen, sometimes not. I guess today was my day," said Clarke, who pocketed US$383,330.

"I was thinking of getting it to the hole (on the 18th) and I wasn?t going to lag it up. I putted nicely this week, and wanted to give myself a chance on the last and I hit a solid putt. It was tracking six foot out and sometimes it?s meant to go in. My boys Tyrone and Conner would have liked that putt more than I did."

Derksen fought bravely, coming back from being two shots behind with four holes remaining to draw level with some solid putting. But he could only watch in amazement when Clarke rammed home his final putt in front of a rapturous crowd.

"Darren holed a good putt and today is his day, his luck I guess," said Derksen, who was chasing a third career victory.

"I was actually quite lucky to draw level after 17. My up and down (for par) on 18 was very good and I don?t make that quite often as it was a very difficult chip. You always think that it (Clarke?s putt) can go in. I saw the speed and if it goes by, it'll be four foot past but it went in, end of story," added the Dutchman.

Derksen fell victim to the par three 14th once again, dropping a costly double bogey after sending a chip into the water to fall two behind. But it wasn?t smooth sailing for Clarke as he stuttered home which kept Derksen in the title race.

"I had a bad lie on 14 and it was a difficult shot. I just hit it and made five in the end. It?s not been my best hole. It was a great match though. He?s a great winner," said Derksen.

Chinese Taipei's Lin holed a long birdie putt which earned him joint third place on 283.

"I am happy as I fought hard. My tee shot was very bad today, it wasn?t straight. But I putted really good. I think I had eight one-putts out there. On the back nine, I got into so much trouble but I managed to chip and one putted regularly," said Lin, this season?s winner of the Asian Tour International in Thailand.
He was especially delighted with his birdie on the last hole, which earned him a cheque of US$118,833 and shooting him up to seventh place on the Asian Tour's Order of Merit.

"On 18, I hit a good drive and only had a nine iron in. My caddie told me to aim left of the cup but I decided to hit it straight and it went in. That was a nice way to finish the week," said Lin.

Liang Wen-chong finished as the highest placed Chinese player in a share of 14th after closing with a 73 for a 288 total. Amateur Hu Mu closed with a disappointing 79 for tied 35th place to earn the leading amateur award while Zhang Lian-wei also carded a 79 for tied 46th place. Li Chao was further back in 61st position.

Australian legend Greg Norman signed off with a 71 for a share of 14th place on 288.
Besides great golfing action, a record 17,000 Chinese fans enjoyed plenty of other activities at expanded Public Area of the BMW Asian Open 2008 over the past four days. Besides a daily trick golf performance by world trickgolf champion Geoff Swain, spectators also enjoyed themselves at the Emirates Spectators Charity Hole-in-one Challenge, the UBS Game Improvement Zone, the ECCO Mini Putting Challenge, the BMW Children?s Traffic Safety Park, the BMW xDrive Demonstration and a great display of BMW Cars. As part of BMW?s effort to make this world-class tournament more accessible, admission to the event was free.

Leading final round scores

280 - Darren Clarke (NIR) 71-69-67-73

281 - Robert-Jan Derksen (NED) 70-69-69-73

283 - Francesco Molinari (ITA) 71-75-68-69, Robert Dinwiddie (ENG) 70-73-66-74, Lin Wen-tang (TPE) 71-71-69-72

284 - Henrik Stenson (SWE) 68-76-72-68

285 - Martin Kaymer (GER) 72-72-74-67, John Bickerton (ENG) 71-75-69-70

286 - Peter Lawrie (IRL) 72-74-70-70, Scott Hend (AUS) 69-74-71-72

287 - Oliver Wilson (ENG) 68-74-74-71, Paul Broadhurst (ENG) 71-73-71-72, Retief Goosen (RSA) 72-70-72-73

288 - Greg Norman (AUS) 71-73-73-71, Scott Strange (AUS) 71-75-70-72, Joost Luiten (NED) 71-75-70-72, Liang Wen-chong (CHN) 71-71-73-73