Hoey claims Dunhill prize

Michael Hoey held off Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell to win the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Sunday.

Michael Hoey held off his fellow countrymen Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell to win the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Sunday.

Overnight leader Hoey, ranked 271st in the world at the start of the tournament, saw off the challenges of his more illustrious compatriots with a final-round 68 at St Andrews, the Home of Golf, to finish two shots clear on 22 under par and win his second European Tour title of the season and a first prize of £515,000.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet and it won’t for a while,” Hoey admitted.

“It’s taken a long time but I supposed in a weird way you enjoy it more because you have struggled through six goes at the Qualifying School.

“It’s not nice running out of money, being away from home, questioning your swing, and there are points where you wonder ‘Do I want to continue with this.”

US Open champ McIlroy finished in second after a closing 65 that threatened to be a much lower score at one stage in the afternoon, while McDowell shared third place a further two shots back with Scotland’s George Murray.

Scot Marc Warren (67), England’s Tommy Fleetwood (68) and South African Louis Oosthuizen (69) were a further shot behind in a tie for fifth.

32-year-old Hoey started the day with a commanding three-stroke advantage over second-placed McDowell and five clear of McIlroy, but the latter produced a flawless five-birdie, one-eagle front-nine 30 to move into a one-shot lead at the halfway mark.

McIlroy started with a birdie at the second and then holed his second shot to the par-four third for an eagle two after his approach pitched past the flag and spun back into the hole. Birdies at the sixth, seventh and ninth soon followed.

Hoey soon recovered from a bogey at the seventh, his second of the day, to make two birdies on the next two holes and draw level.

McIlroy hit back again after a superb tee-shot on the par-three 11th finished just two feet from the hole, but that would be his last birdie of the day.

A missed four-footer for birdie at the 14th seemed to indicate that nerves were starting to show for Hoey.

“I felt I was throwing this away at that stage,” he said.

But he quickly hit back with birdies at the next two holes to give him a lead he would not again relinquish.

“Playing with Graeme (McDowell), he’s such a battler and wanted to win himself, but he said to me a couple of times on the green ‘Knock it in’ and fortunately at the end I was able to put a bit of fight in myself,” Hoey added.

“I knew I had to hit two of the best shots of my life into 16 and 17 and I was really pleased I was able to produce those.”

McIlroy was philospohical about his near miss.

“I’ve been very consistent, which is a good thing, but I want to get wins and that’s the most important thing,” he said. “It’s good to be one, two, three and see all of us boys up there, I’m just obviously disappointed that it wasn’t me lifting the trophy.”