Morrison wins, Khan loses out
Simon Khan, European golf’s man of the moment, kept a smile on his face all day at Walton Heath – even when he missed out.
Simon Khan, European golf’s man of the moment, kept a smile on his face all day at Walton Heath on Monday – even when he was the one to lose out in a six-man play-off for five places in next month’s US Open.
Long after Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie had missed out by three shots in the 36-hole European qualifying competition, new BMW PGA champion Khan was through to Pebble Beach until Swede Rikard Karlberg birdied his last-but-one hole in the final group.
It meant more work and Khan, understandably exhausted by then after getting “hardly any sleep”, was the only one of the sextet not to birdie the first hole of sudden death.
“Unbelievable – I thought one of them would miss,” said the 37-year-old from Essex after seeing Karlberg make a 25-footer and then French pair Gregory Havret and Jean-Francois Lucquin hole from 15 and 14 feet respectively.
Already through in the play-off by then were Spaniard Pablo Martin and Finn Mikko Ilonen, while the qualifier was earlier won by England’s James Morrison by two strokes from Argentina’s Rafa Echenique and by three from Welshman Rhys Davies, Ireland’s Gareth Maybin, England’s Gary Boyd and Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello.
Khan might still earn a place in the second major of the year as the first reserve from Walton Heath, but having changed his life by winning the European Tour’s flagship event at the weekend – first prize was over £637,000 – there will be no tears if that does not happen.
He had earlier shot rounds of 67 and 70 for a seven-under-par total after showing real professionalism getting up at 6am the morning after the memorable night before.
“I had a few legless shots this afternoon,” he said, referring to fatigue rather than a hangover. “Swing-wise I’m delighted with how I played, but I couldn’t focus on the greens.”
After his efforts of the day and the past week he has now decided to skip this week’s Madrid Masters and will return to action a week on Thursday in the Wales Open at Celtic Manor. He won that title in 2004.
Montgomerie blamed poor putting for failing in his bid to qualify for a trip to the course on which he finished third on his debut in 1992.
The 46-year-old Scot’s two rounds of 0 meant he missed out on the play-off by three shots.
“It’s very disappointing. I had an opportunity to get to eight under easy, but missed too many putts as usual,” he said.
“Same old story for six years. I’ll try again at Sunningdale.”
That was a reference to the Open Championship qualifier in two weeks’ time, when he will be trying to earn a return to St Andrews, scene of his runner-up finish to Tiger Woods five years ago.
Former Ryder Cup team-mate Darren Clarke also failed to make it through, and so did 17-year-old Italian Matteo Manassero, who as an amateur came 13th in The Open last July and 36th in The Masters last month.
The youngster, who played with a home club member when scheduled partner Chris Wood failed to show and was disqualified, finished on five under, but Clarke was way down the field on two over.
Like Khan, the 40-year-old Ulsterman has pulled out of this week’s Madrid Masters and said: “I’m flogging a bit of a dead horse and need a break. I’m just not enjoying it – I’m trying hard, but it ain’t happening.”
Wood, the 54-hole leader at Wentworth who then crashed to a 77,
will avoid a £1,000 fine after management spokesman Ian Garbutt said that messages about his withdrawal had been left with the United States Golf Association and the European Tour.
“He’s just exhausted,” said Garbutt. “Chris has been in contention the last three weeks and last week was a big week.”
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