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Benson & Hedges International
The Oxfordshire Golf Club
14th - 17th May 1998

Par 72 Prize Money 750,000

Final Round

Solid round from Clarke ensures victory

The Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire, 17th May 1998 -Northern Ireland's Ryder Cup player Darren Clarke scored his first victory in 20 months when he won the Benson and Hedges International Open by three strokes on Sunday.

Clarke, the joint overnight leader with reigning European number one Colin Montgomerie and Italian Massimo Florioli, shot a five-under-par 67 over the 7,205-yard Oxfordshire course for a winning 15-under-par total of 273.

As Montgomerie's bid for a first victory of the year faded on the greens, Spain's Santiago Luna came through the field to claim second place with a 67 for 276.

Dane Thomas Bjorn after a 67 and Florioli with a 71 shared third place on 277. Montgomerie tied for fifth with South African Retief Goosen after a closing birdie gave him a level-par 72.

Clarke, leader of last year's British Open after 45 holes rounds before finishing joint second behind American Justin Leonard, fashioned his 125,000 pounds ($203,000) success on three crucial birdies from the fourth hole.

By the time he played the 11th he had opened a four-shot lead, with five birdies to go with a bogey on the third.

"I took my chances early on as I tried to establish a good lead," said Clarke, who produced two weekend 67s to gain his third European Tour title. "Then I played really solidly on the back nine.

"It's been a frustrating time waiting for another win because my game has improved more than my results have shown.

"That, I think, was because there was one major piece missing in my game and that was my attitude which had held me back.

"A lot of people told me that and at last it seems to have sunk in because this week I've shown patience instead of trying to force things to happen."

He also credited his joint eighth-place finish - with Montgomerie - at the Masters at Augusta in April.

"That stood me in good stead. I was patient at Augusta which is an unbelievably difficult course and I brought that with me to this tournament," he said.

Montgomerie, playing with Clarke, putted badly throughout his round and any chance he had vanished when he three-putted the 10th for a bogey.

"I just couldn't putt," said the Scot. "It's the worst I've ever putted in a final round when I've been in contention and I've been in contention a lot over the last 10 years.

"As my confidence on the greens went, Darren's grew."

His prize of 29,010 pounds ($47,000) hauled Montgomerie from 99th to 41st as he aims for a sixth consecutive Order of Merit title.

But he is still 236,801 pounds ($385,000) behind the new money leader Jose Maria Olazabal, who nosed ahead of South African Ernie Els.

Olazabal finished joint 11th after a 68 despite driving badly.

"I am just ashamed of myself the way I drove the ball. The last fairway I hit was the third hole," the Spaniard said.

With Montgomerie never finding his putting touch and Florioli having a see-saw round of bogeys as well as birdies, Luna crept in to second place.

But when Clarke ripped in a wedge to just 15 inches on the par-four 16th for his sixth birdie, the title was his.

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Final Scores

Third Round

Langer withdraws

Last Year's Event