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Golf Today > Tour Schedules > 2006 > European Tour > Open de France > Round 4


John Bickerton clinches victory

Britain's John Bickerton survived a late wobble on the National course's infamous closing stretch on Sunday to claim the French Open title by a stroke.

Bickerton double-bogeyed the 15th water hole but did just enough to avoid a playoff with Ireland's Padraig Harrington after carding a two-under-par 69 for an 11-under four-round total 272.

The last four holes at the National have claimed many victims in the past and Bickerton had to keep his cool after a three-shot advantage was cut to just a stroke by his six on the 15th after finding the lake with his approach.

On the long, uphill par-four 17th, the 36-year-old Englishman drove into heavy rough and sprayed his second shot over the path and to the right.

But he then produced one of the shots of the tournament to chip to seven feet and save par. When he made the island 18th green, Bickerton's two putts for par earned him over $800,000 dollars, one of the richest prizes of the European Tour season.

His 666,660 Ryder Cup points took Bickerton, whose only win was at last year's minor Canaries Open in his 12th year on the tour, to 10th on the European table.

After leading the first two rounds, he trailed New Zealand's Michael Campbell by a stroke going into the final round and the 2005 U.S. Open champion remained a threat after drawing within a stroke with a birdie on 16.

Campbell, though, lost his victory chance and a share of second place with Harrington by hitting his approach into the lake to double-bogey the last.

"Cambo got a gust so I changed my six-iron to a five-iron at the last," Bickerton told reporters.

"This course has such a tough finish. I hit a bad shot on 15 and the ball ballooned short.

"But I'd just made a couple of birdies so I stayed positive and then when I made the four on 17 I settled down again."

A 63 in the first round, just a stroke off the course record, set up Bickerton's career-changing victory, which also earned him an exemption for the British Open in two weeks' time and took him to fifth on Europe's money-list.

"I've been out here a long time and it's nice to put some icing on the cake," he said.

Harrington, who was runner-up in the U.S. Tour's Booz Allen Classic, chalked up a remarkable 22nd second place in European tour strokeplay events in 10 years after birdies at the last two holes for a 66, the joint-best round of the day.

The Irishman, who said on Saturday he could not win on the course, came to the National looking for Ryder Cup points and picked up 440,440 points to move into sixth place on the Cup table.

Campbell finished in a tie for third place, three behind Bickerton, with Australian Marcus Fraser (69) and another Briton, Ian Poulter (69).



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