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Italian Open
Milan, Italy
30th April - 3rd May 1998

Par 72 Prize Money 500,000

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Sjoland claims first tour win

Milan, Italy, 3rd May 1998 - Patrik Sjoland romped home by three shots to win the Italian Open - then praised his Swedish girlfriend Ulrika, who also acts as his caddy, for helping him gain his first European Tour victory.

The 26-year-old Swede shot 66 today, following two superb rounds of 64 and 65, for a 54-hole 21-under-par aggregate of 195, beating Spaniard Jose Maria Olazabal and fellow Swede Joakim Haeggman by three shots, with Denmark's Thomas Bjorn two shots further back.

Sjoland had only one bogey during the tournament, at the 190-yard 15th hole in his opening round, and said: "I really must thank Ulrika for her support this week. Just to have her around is great but she really helps me mentally.

"She doesn't play golf herself but helps me focus on shots and also keeps me relaxed by chatting to me while we are walking between shots."

Modest Sjoland agreed he had never hit his iron shots better than during the last four days and added: "There must be something in the Italian air. I finished second in this tournament two years ago and have been fourth and fifth in Challenge Tour events in Italy."

Olazabal, runner-up for the second successive week after finishing behind Denmark's Thomas Bjorn at the Spanish Open in Barcelona, must be getting weary of trailing behind Scandinavian players.

The Spanish maestro, starting four shots behind Sjoland after both had completed their second rounds earlier in the day, closed the gap to two after carding the seventh birdie of his round at the 12th hole. But he three-putted the 14th and said: "When I did that, I knew it was over."

Sjoland had six birdies and no bogeys in his 66 and Olazabal eight birdies and one bogey in his 65, but the best round of the day came from Haeggman, who shot 63 with eight birdies and an eagle three at the 533-yard 10th.

Former Ryder Cup player Peter Baker, from Wolverhampton, was the top British player, finishing fifth on 201 after three successive rounds of 67.

It was Baker's third top-10 finish in seven tournaments this year but he was no more delighted than Lee Westwood, who finished one shot behind him in joint sixth.

Seventeen hours' play was lost through torrential rain during the first two days but Westwood, who has had two weeks off since returning from a four-week stint in the United States, had few complaints.

"It was a bit difficult having to wait around for so long on the first two days," he said. "I was a bit rusty. But today I played my last nine holes in 31 and my game's coming together nicely for the big events in Britain."