By John Manley
David Higgins overcame a shaky start in Sunday’s final round of the NCC Open in Sweden to post a three-stroke victory over Martin Erlandsson for his first triumph on the European Challenge Tour. Higgins was up by three when he teed off on Sunday, but he bogeyed two of the first three holes, while Erlandsson was notching birdies to draw even. But Higgins was able to stop the bleeding and regain the form that shot him to the top of the leaderboard.
Higgins finished 10 under par for the tournament at 274 (69-70-64-71). His third-round score was lowest of the event. He now has a leg up on gaining a European Tour card for next year.
Paul McGinley and Philip Walton comprised the Irish threat in the Wales Open over the Wentworth Hills Course at Celtic Manor. Both suffered a disastrous round that mired them near the bottom of the leaderboard. Walton handily made the cut with rounds of 72 and 70 before coming apart with an 80 on Saturday. He straightened matters out on Sunday, shooting 73. His 295 tied him for 75th place.
McGinley shot 77 on Thursday, but came back with a 67 on Friday, which he followed with a 68 on Saturday. Thoughts of a late run to challenge for the lead fell apart en route an a final-round 81. McGinley’s 293 tied him for 69th place. Denmark’s Steen Tinning was alone atop the leaderboard at 273.
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As usual, Aideen Rogers was the top finishing Irish woman in last week’s event, the Waterford Crystal Irish Open, played at Faithlegg, Co. Waterford.
Rogers was seven over par for 72 holes at 295 (75-73-73-74), which landed her in a tie for 19th place. Amateur Susie O’Brien came in with 226 (73-74-77-72) to gain a share of 27th place. Sophie Gustafson had the winning number of 282.
Richard Coughlan earned a spot in the Buick Classic at the Westchester Country Club in Harrison, N.Y., via Monday qualifying. Coughlan, a regular on the Hooters Tour this year, dug himself a hole with a 76 in the first round. He improved with a 71 the second time around, but his 147 was three strokes off the 144 needed to advance to weekend play.
Keith Nolan’s woes continued. He finished 36 holes at 152 (77-75).
Senior PGA Tour
Christy O’Connor, Jr. isn’t having the season he enjoyed last year, but he went the distance in the SBC Senior Open at the Kemper Lakes Golf Club in Long Grove, Ill. O’Connor tied for 50th place at nine-over-par 225 (77-73-75), well off Tom Kite’s winning score of 207. O’Connor earned $3,808.
John Kernohan earned $3,761 with his 23rd place tie in the Dayton Open at The Golf Club at Yankee Trace in Centerville, Ohio. He finished 72 holes one under par at 287 (72-70-71-74). Atop the leaderboard with scores of 276 were Chris Smith and Ian Leggatt, the latter winning the playoff.
Action begins Thursday at Pebble Beach in California. Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington look to add some luster to their already interesting seasons. Clarke is part of a trio including Fred Couples and Jeff Maggert that will tee off at 12:30 p.m. and 8:10 a.m., PST, on Thursday and Friday, respectively. Harrington will join Brad Elder and Brad Faxon at 9:30 a.m. and 1:50 p.m. those same two days.