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Smurfit European Open
The K Club
Dublin, Ireland
20th - 23rd August 1998

Par 72 Prize Money 1.25 million

Final Round Report

Gronberg wins by massive 10-shot margin

Straffan, Ireland, 23rd August 1998 - Unfancied Swede Mathias Gronberg, playing with clinical mastery, crushed his opponents and defied the elements at the Smurfit European Open on Sunday to win by a massive 10 shots.

Gronberg had won only one tournament in his eight-year professional career and plunged to 108th on the 1997 European rankings. Sunday's successs rocketed him from 54th to eighth place on the 1998 money list.

Over four days at the testing K Club southwest of Dublin, he shot rounds of 68, 71, 67 and 69 to finish 13 under par while competitors crumbled around him, unable to cope with narrow fairways and poor weather.

Only six players finished under par, testament to the tough Arnold Palmer-designed course that has been made even more difficult in an attempt to attract the Ryder Cup to the club.

Gronberg started the day three shots ahead but was cool enough to stop for a typically Swedish meal of salmon, potatoes and vegetables during a 40-minute bad weather break in play just after he had finished nine holes.

"I was hungry. I missed breakfast in the morning because I was a bit disorganised," the ice-cool 28-year-old said.

Little-known American Craig Hainline started the final day just three shots behind Gronberg, but the Swede shot three birdies while Hainline collapsed around the turn, hitting double bogeys at the ninth and 10th to finish joint fifth one under par.

Spaniard Miguel Jimenez and Welshman Phillip Price shared second place, winning 108,000 each.

Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke, second in European rankings, finished two under in fourth position with a round of 73.

Gronberg won 208,300 for his efforts and said he planned to buy a jeep with some of his earnings.

His 10-shot victory was the biggest European Tour triumph this year and one shot from the record 11-stroke margin, held by six players, including Colin Montgomerie, Vijay Singh and Tony Jacklin.

"I felt good all day, even at the start of the day. It was after I sank a 45-foot putt at the sixth for a birdie that I really started to feel confident," he said.

Early morning players teed off in heavy rain, but the leaders began in sunshine until play was suspended for 40 minutes when a violent storm swept across the course as the leaders reached the turn.

The Stockholm player, who learned his golf on Sweden's windy, rain-swept west coast, said the wet conditions suited him fine.

Recently engaged to an American, he said he had been considering trying to qualify for the U.S. tour but the prospect of further European success might keep him in Europe.

Many of Europe's top players failed to make it to Sunday's final day. Some did not enter as they played in last week's PGA tournament and leaders like Montgomerie, American Payne Stewart and Swedish holder Per-Ulrik Johansson failed to make the cut.

Johansson won the 1996 and 1997 European Open at the K Club and had hoped for a hat-trick of victories, but could only hand the trophy over to a compatriot.

In the final rounds, German Bernhard Langer crumbled over two days, hitting 75s on Saturday and Sunday to finish level on 288.

European number one Lee Westwood withdrew on Sunday with an injured hip and said he would miss this week's BMW International in Munich.

Clarke could go top of the European rankings in Munich and said he regretted missing a chance on Sunday.

"Second place was my goal. I've closed the gap down a little bit more and I have another chance next week," he said.

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