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European Tour arrives back in Europe

The 2007 European Tour, which has already visited Australasia, Africa, Asia and the United States, makes its first stop on home soil this week when Jean Van de Velde defends his Madeira Island Open title.

Despite taking a double-bogey six at the final hole last March, the Frenchman ended a 13-year wait for his second tour title as he edged out Briton Lee Slattery by one stroke.

Paul Lawrie of Britain, who beat Van de Velde and American Justin Leonard in a playoff to win the 1999 British Open at Carnoustie, will hope to challenge for the first prize of 116,660 euros at the hilltop venue of Santo da Serra Golf Club.

Lawrie and Van de Velde are likely to feature prominently in the pre-championship spotlight in July when the third major of the season returns to the Scottish course for the first time in eight years.

The Frenchman, who carded a sad triple-bogey seven at the final regulation hole of the 1999 Open, came close to blowing the Madeira title last year.

Van de Velde struck a wayward drive at the 18th before finding a grassy hollow with his second shot.

He then fluffed his pitch short of the green, hit his ball 15-feet beyond the hole and needed two putts.

"I found the nastiest patch of grass on the whole course and I was lucky to get it forward," said Van de Velde. "But if I can't take three from 10 yards off the green there are going to be some questions asked.

"I knew a six was going to win it. I wasn't nervous. What happened many years ago was a freaky circumstance."

Britain's Bradley Dredge, the world number 66, will be the highest-ranked player in Madeira.


March 20, 2007

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