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Allenby holds on for narrow victory

Robert Allenby has held off a never-say-die Steven Conran and eased some of the pain of his Australian Open failure with a one-stroke victory in the Australian PGA at Royal Queensland.

The Victorian pocketed $180,000 to go to the top of the Order of Merit and cap off a fine year following victories in the Houston and Western Opens in the US. The effort matches his performance in 1996 when he won the French Open, English Open and British Masters. It was his first Australian victory since the Heineken Classic in 1995.

Allenby came into the final day with a four-stroke lead over New South Wales’ Conran and ensured that advantage never got below three shots until Conran birdied the final two holes. Allenby led by five strokes with five holes to go, but a bogey on the 15th and three birdies to Conran, including the two at the end, ensured an exciting finish.

But Allenby held firm just missing a monster putt for birdie on the 18th to shoot a final two-under 70 to finish the tournament at 13-under.

Allenby was in a similar position last week when he took a two-stroke lead into the final round of the Australian Open at Kingston Heath only to fire two double-bogeys and let 19-year-old Aaron Baddeley win back-to-back Open titles.

But there was to be no repeat at Royal Queensland with superb conditions attracting huge galleries. Twice Allenby’s lead stretched out to five strokes, but to his credit Conran would bounce back to keep his playing partner honest.

Conran, the 1989 Australian amateur champion, finished a deserved second at 12-under with the day’s best round of five-under 67.

New South Wales’ Andre Stolz finished third at eight-under after promising plenty with a three-under front nine. His efforts looked to be wasted with a double-bogey six at the 11th, but he bounced back to challenge for second with three birdies only to finish with a disappointing bogey on the final hole.

Scott Gardiner also shot a three-under 69 for the day, but like Stolz bogeyed the final hole to finish fourth at seven-under.

Queensland’s Adam Scott had an outstanding final day with a 69 to finish fifth on five-under. Scott and Australian Open winner Aaron Baddeley shot identical rounds and played together on the first three days, but Baddeley couldn’t match the Queenslander to be even for the day and a share of seventh place at two-under.

Greg Norman made a poor start with a bogey at the par-4 first, but was bogey free from there and landed two birdies to finish one-under for the day and in sixth spot – another top 10 finish - at four-under.

New South Wales’ Jason Ashcroft was the best-performed player in the clubhouse early with a four-under 68 until Conran’s final surge. And Queensland’s David Podlich had a tremendous front nine, picking up five strokes, but faded with a two-over on the back nine.

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