By John Manley
David Higgins won his second European Challenge Tour event of the year with a birdie on the first playoff hole in the Guenther Hamburg Classic in Germany last weekend, but don’t expect him to defend his title next year. By dint of winning, Higgins has assured himself a finish in the top 15 on the Tour’s Order of Merit, meaning automatic promotion to the European Tour in 2001.
Higgins, who’s Waterville, Co. Kerry, shot a course record 64 over Auf der Wendlohe, with birdies on the final three holes to close the gap on leader Carlos Rodiles. They replayed the 18th hole to settle matters. Higgins dropped a six-foot putt for birdie, while Rodiles settled for par, and the books were closed. Their final numbers were 270, with Higgins shooting 69, 69 and 68 in the first three rounds.
First-place money of $24,365 boosts Higgins to the top of the Tour’s money list.
Once Tiger Woods sinks his claws into a major championship, it’s all over for everyone but the accountants. Amid the Woods cyclone, the Irish contingent held up well in the race for second place in the British Open at St. Andrews’ Old Course in Scotland.
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Darren Clarke, who earlier showed that Tiger can be tamed in match play if not on a medal basis, shared seventh place with three others. A 73 on Sunday dropped him down the leaderboard a few pegs. His 280 (70-69-68-73) was eight under par and 11 strokes behind Woods.
Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley tied for 20th place with four others at 282. Harrington came in with rounds of 68. 72, 70 and 72, while McGinley signed to scores of 69, 72, 71 and 70. They were six under par for 72 holes.
Further down in 60th place, but by no means diminished, was Christy O’Connor, Jr. The reigning British senior champion was among the first round leaders at 69. A second round 75 enabled him to make the cut, but took him off the leaderboard. He played the weekend to rounds of 72 and 74, finishing two over par at 290.
Keith Nolan certainly doesn’t make things easy for himself. The Wicklow man had one of his finer outings this year with a three-under-par 69 in the first round of the B.C. Open at the En-Joie Golf Course in Endicott, N.Y. That placed him in a tie for 13th place. He then shot 74 in the second round and made the cut with not a stroke to spare.
Nolan shot 74 and 72 on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, for a total score of one-over-par 289. That tied him for 70th place, with earnings of $3,980.