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Peugeot Open de España
El Prat
Barcelona, Spain
23rd - 26th April 1998

Par 72 Prize Money £550,000

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Bjorn wins his second event of 1998

Barcelona, Spain, 26th April 1998 - Denmark's Thomas Bjørn clinched the Open de España for his second European Tour title of the year on Sunday with a final six-under-par round of 66.

Bjørn took the lead as late as the 16th hole when a chip-in for his eighth birdie of the day was enough to keep Spaniard José Maria Olazábal and Australian overnight leader Greg Chalmers at bay.

It was Bjørn's second victory of the year after he had taken the Heineken Classic in Perth, the second tour event of the year.

"I didn't really expect this after taking five weeks' off," said Bjørn. "But when your confidence has gone like mine did after winning in Perth, it just shows it's best to take a break and regroup."

"I feel my game has improved so much that I can take on the best in the world now and when the chance comes I know I will do well in a Major."

The leading three and Argentina's Eduardo Romero had traded places on top of the leaderboard but Bjørn's 21-under-par total of 267 earned him the £91,660 first prize by one stroke.

He ended playing partner Olazábal's chances of winning a first Open de España title as the Spaniard, the 1994 Masters champion, had to settle for a 67 and joint second with Chalmers, whose 69 was not quite enough for his maiden European Tour title.

The 24-year-old Australian missed a birdie chance from 15 feet at the last to force a playoff with Bjørn, his ball agonisingly spinning out of the hole.

Romero lost the lead after two mistakes in the middle of the back nine and finished tied fourth a further two strokes adrift of Bjørn, level with defending champion Mark James of Britain.

It was the second time Bjørn had beaten a former U.S. Masters champion. He pipped 1991 Augusta champion Ian Woosnam in Heineken Classic.

"I could have been really nervous coming down the last holes but my experience playing Ryder Cup last year and being able to beat Ian Woosnam earlier in the year enabled me to handle the pressure," Bjørn said.

With birdies once again easy to come by in perfect conditions, it was always going to be the man with the best run of them down the closing stretch who was going to prevail and Bjørn proved to be the man.

Romero had taken the lead with an eagle on the 10th but faltered with bogeys on the 14th and 15th. Olazábal was unable to make the vital birdies coming home and with Chalmers spoiling his chances with a bogey on 14, Bjørn took charge.

He had trailed Olazábal by two strokes on the 13th but three successive birdies ending with the chip-in from the edge of the bunker on 16 set up the Ryder Cup Dane's second success of the year.

Olazábal, who shot an eight-under-par 64 on Saturday, missed his best chance of lifting his first Open de España title and knew why. "I said to my manager on Friday night that I needed two rounds of seven-under-par to win and I was right because I failed by one stroke through being 13-under at the weekend.

"The secret was that Bjørn had a good run of birdies at the end and I didn't."

Chalmers conceded he, too, had lost it at the end. "I played pretty solid and never backed off even if it was my first chance of winning," he said. "I didn't really do a lot wrong, just missed a couple of greens badly towards the end and that was it."

Robert Karlsson looked on the way to the first official European Tour 59 when he went out in six-under-par 29 and birdied 10 of the first 14 holes.

But the 28-year-old Swede double-bogeyed the 16th and finished with the week's sixth 64, one stroke off the course record.


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