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Page last updated at 15:51 GMT, Sunday, 24 August 2008 16:51 UK

Clarke surges to Holland victory

-16 D Clarke -12 P McGinley, H Stenson (Swe) -9 L Slattery, M Warren
-8 S Hansen (Den), R McGowan
Selected others: -5 O Wilson, R Fisher -2 J Rose

Darren Clarke poses with the KLM Open trophy
Clarke was a hero of the last Ryder Cup at the K Club in Dublin

Darren Clarke put himself in pole position to be awarded a Ryder Cup wildcard spot after surging to a four-shot victory at the KLM Open.

The Northern Irishman maintained his superb form in Holland with a second successive 66 to collect his second European Tour title of the season.

The 40-year-old made himself a strong contender for one of European captain Nick Faldo's two picks next Sunday.

A 64 from Paul McGinley, another Ryder Cup stalwart, saw him finish runner-up.

It was an impressive late wildcard bid from the Dubliner, who has played in the last three Ryder Cup contests and resigned his vice-captaincy role in an attempt to make a fourth.

But with Clarke, Paul Casey and Colin Montgomerie, who has played in every match since 1991, also outside the automatic qualifiers, it may have come too late.

It's nice to win knowing that I had to play well and then actually doing it

Darren Clarke
Clarke, on each of the last five European teams, is unable to play his way into the top 10, but gave the strongest possible nudge to Faldo that he is in the form to merit a wildcard place.

Three shots clear at the start of the final round, Clarke bogeyed the long second and saw playing partner Henrik Stenson close to within one shot after birdies on the first three holes.

But the hero of the last Ryder Cup at Dublin's K Club sank six-foot birdie putts on the next two greens to put himself back on course.

Stenson drew level again with his fourth birdie of the day but Clarke regained control by making birdie at the seventh, while a bogey and double bogey for Stenson saw Clarke move four clear at the turn.

He birdied the next three holes to effectively seal victory and Stenson had to settle for third place after a bogey on the last, with McGinley's final-round charge - featuring an eagle and five birdies - good enough to claim second.

Stenson, fourth in the Ryder Cup standings, is already guaranteed his spot for the clash with the United States at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky on 16-21 September.

One more qualifying event remains, this week's Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.

"It's nice to win knowing that I had to play well and then actually doing it," said Clarke, who won all his three gamesat the K Club two years ago just six weeks after his wife Heather died of breast cancer.

"I had two weeks to try to impress Nick. The first is out of the way and I seem to have done that.

"I don't know if I have done enough, but I'm going to Gleneagles in better shape and hopefully he will take notice."

McGinley, for his part, has not given up hope of making the team.

"There are only two picks, so it's a tight situation, but I'm going to have to win (in Scotland) to give myself a chance," he said.

I came to do a job. I didn't do it this week, so I'll do it next week

Ryder Cup hopeful Justin Rose
"As everybody knows, it's about winning. I've no complaints - I've not played well enough, but there's one more event and I'll certainly be giving it 101%."

Justin Rose, who remains eighth in the standings after a joint-34th finish in Holland, has opted to play in Perthshire rather than return to America to compete for a possible 5m jackpot at the FedEx Cup play-offs.

"It's only money - you can't take it with you," said Rose. "My missus will be upset with me - I told her I'd play well and see her tomorrow.

"It's Plan B - it was not on my schedule to play these two weeks in Europe - but I came to do a job. I didn't do it this week, so I'll do it next week."

Three players would need to overtake the world number 12, but six still have a chance to do that.

They are Soren Hansen Oliver Wilson (currently occupying the 10th and last automatic selection place on Europe's Ryder Cup points list), Martin Kaymer, Ian Poulter, Ross Fisher and Nick Dougherty.

Hansen jumped ahead of Wilson into ninth with a joint-sixth finish in Holland.

Wilson and Fisher both finished joint 20th, while Kaymer, 11th in the standings, lost ground after finishing 55th.

Swede Robert Karlsson, who has already sealed his Ryder Cup place in fifth spot, is suffering with a neck injury which could prevent him from playing until a week before the Ryder Cup.

Karlsson is resting at home at Monaco and is unable to practise as he undergoes treatment.

His manager Johan Elliot said: "His physio has told him not to risk further damage by playing.

"We hope it is not serious, but he has decided not to play the Omega Masters in Switzerland (from 4-7 September) as a precaution. But, if all goes well, he will play the Mercedes-Benz Championship (from 11-14 September) the week before the Ryder Cup."

see also
European Ryder Cup rankings
17 Aug 08 |  Golf

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