Lara triumphs in Austrian play-off
Jose Manuel Lara won the Austrian Open on Sunday after forcing himself into a play-off with a magnificent closing 64.
Spain’s Jose Manuel Lara won his second European Tour title after forcing himself into a play-off at the Austrian Golf Open with a magnificent closing 64 – and in doing so saved his tour card for 2011.
The bearded Lara beat England’s pencil slim David Lynn at the first extra hole of the play-off.
Lara had missed nine successive cuts before finishing fourth at last week’s KLM Open, and the confidence he gleaned from that performance carried him to an emotional triumph in Atzenbrugg on Sunday.
The 33-year-old from Valencia surged up the leaderboard from eighth place overnight after recording 10 birdies and two bogeys in his eight-under-par round of 64.
That meant he finished with a personal best-ever 17-under 271 in a tie with the Stoke-based Lynn, who carded 68, as the pair overtook a stumbling overnight leader Danny Willett who finished with three successive bogeys.
The leading pair both returned to the 18th tee to decide the victor, and Lynnw, ho had been struggling to find the fairway with his driver, put himself in trouble on the par-four hole by finding rough on the right, behind a grass bank and almost in a bunker with his tee shot.
From there could only trundle the ball halfway to the green.
Lara’s tee shot was not perfect, finding light rough on the left, but he was able to find the putting surface with his second shot.
Lynn pitched his third shot to around 15 feet, but Lara then putted to four feet.
The pressure was on the 37-year-old Englishman and he failed to hole his testing putt, allowing Lara to step forward and find the heart of the hole to take victory with a par.
Willett, the 22-year-old from Yorkshire, had to settle for a share of third place on 14 under par, alongside Northern Ireland’s reigning US Open champion Graeme McDowell and Alexander Noren of Sweden.
Lara won his only previous European Tour title outside of Europe, prevailing at the Hong Kong Open in November 2006.
He celebrated with his caddie, embraced runner-up Lynn, and was then chased around the green by Champagne-spraying players including fellow Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez.
Lara had plenty of reason to be satisfied, not least the cheque for 125,000 euros (£104,000) which was his reward.
He came into the tournament at a lowly 130th in the Race to Dubai, and was in danger of having to go to the qualifying school to earn his card for next season.
But his victory solved that problem though, guaranteeing him a place on the tour for 2011.
Lara started his week well with a 66 but then rounds of 71 and 70 indicated he may have to make a top-10 finish his main target.
However he produced eight birdies in his opening 14 holes today, and despite dropping shots at the 15th and 17th, made amends on each occasion at the next.
Lara admitted playing so well in Holland last week had raised his expectations, however he had not expected to do quite so well in Austria.
“I was expecting something good. I was hitting the ball really well last week,” Lara told Sky Sports.
“I wanted to win this tournament and the way I played today and this week, in my best dreams I never imagined that.
“Today I just came from behind and tried to work from the back and I did my job.”
He added: “It’s a great time for me.
“All the guys supporting me, the Spaniards, I’m really happy now.”
Lara is now targeting a place at the end-of-season Dubai World Championship, although he will need to keep earning good money to nudge towards the required top-60 finish in the Race to Dubai.
He said: “I’ve played the Volvo Masters [the forerunner to the Dubai World Championship] four times in my career, so I think Dubai’s the next step.
“I saved my card today. I’ve been struggling in the last few years and I’ve missed too many cuts.”
Further down the final leaderboard, Ireland’s Damien McGrane and England’s Chris Gane tied for sixth place on 13-under, after rounds of 65 and 70 respectively.
Argentina’s Clodomiro Carranza took eighth place after a 70, while Spain’s Luis Claverie and Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin tied for ninth after both went round in 69.
Fifteen-year-old Austrian amateur Matthias Schwab started the day on eight under and finished with a 75 to drop to five under, and a share of 32nd, but that represented the best ever performance by a player of his age on the European Tour.
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