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Golf Today > Tour Schedules > 2006 > European Tour > Nissan Irish Open > Round 4


Thomas Bjorn clinches win with late birdies

Denmark's Thomas Bjorn birdied the last two holes on Monday to win the weather-affected Irish Open title.

Bjorn equalled the European Tour's record best recovery when he came back from a first round 78 to close with a level-par 72 on the tournament's fifth day to total five-under-par 283, a stroke better than Britain's Paul Casey.

The Dane's ninth European Tour title came after a battle of attrition with the weather, high winds on the opening day and torrential rain on Sunday extending the tournament's life.

Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke looked favourite to win when he began the day two strokes ahead of the field on the ninth.

But he bogeyed the hole and with two bogeys in the last three holes, including a three-putt at the 72nd, had to be satisfied with third place, a stroke behind Casey.

Bjorn's victory represented a remarkable comeback.

On Friday morning, the 35-year-old Dane finished off his disrupted first round with a triple-bogey eight for a six-over-par 78.

After a quick turnaround, though, he then equalled the course record 66 later on that Friday to put himself into contention, only three strokes off the halfway lead.

A 67 on Saturday gave him a share the lead and his grandstand finish equalled a tour record set by George Burns, also in Ireland, who won the 1975 Kerrygold International Classic at Waterville, also after beginning with a 78.

Bjorn's win comes after a year of illness and injury and may also help erase the memory of his last bid for a title in Ireland when he took an 11 at the penultimate hole in the European Open at the K Club, host for September's Ryder Cup.

Bjorn said: "After the first round (here), I didn't think much was going my way again. In the end, it was last man standing."

Casey, looking to put right his collapse the previous week when he let the British Masters title slip through his grasp in the final round, could have forced a playoff.

But while Bjorn chipped and putted from six feet for his birdie, the Englishman three-putted from the front fringe, leaving his first putt from 80ft, 12ft short.

Clarke's chance went with a three-putt on the last, too, after an unsettling start to his 10 remaining holes.  

When he returned to his ball in the rough on the ninth he reported to a referee that his lie had been improved by grass being flattened down.

He was told to play the ball as it lay but, feeling he was gaining an unfair advantage if he went for the green from his improved lie, chipped sideways from the rough, as he would have had to do, he felt, with his original lie, and took bogey.

Bjorn paid tribute to his friend, whose wife is battling cancer: "Darren's as good a sportsman as they come and what he did on the ninth shows his character," the Dane said. "There's no person in the world I'd like to see win more than Darren."

New Zealander Michael Campbell said he was "well on track" for the defence of his U.S. Open title next month after finishing off with a 73 to end six strokes behind Bjorn.

Rain forces tournament into Monday finish

The Irish Open will be completed on Monday after heavy rain caused waterlogging of the Carton House course.

Play in the final round was abandoned at 1515 GMT on Sunday. The final round will resume at 0915 GMT on Monday.

Northern Irishman Darren Clarke leads by two shots on six-under-par after eight holes, from Swede Peter Hedblom and British pair Paul Casey and Ross Fisher.

Dane Thomas Bjorn and Britain's Anthony Wall are a further stroke behind.

A second suspension of the week, following a six-hour hiatus on Thursday because of high winds which began the week's disruptions, came at midday on Sunday before play was abandoned with no change likely in the bad weather.

Leader Clarke had just sent a tee-shot into heavy right rough from the ninth tee when the hooter went to bring in the players.

Clarke began the round with a birdie, making up for his miss at the last the previous day when another birdie putt from 12 inches went astray.

With others losing ground around him because of the awful conditions, Clarke surged two shots ahead at the eighth with a second birdie.

Irish Open European Tour official Andy McFee said it made sense to carry the tournament over to a fifth day:

"The forecast is for just showers tomorrow and we only have about three hours left of play in the tournament," he said.

"We will always try to play 72 holes whenever it is possible."



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