Smyth, who played bogey-free over the first 36 holes, could have sewn up the title early on Sunday, but three bogeys offset the three birdies he’d notched, and he was even for the day after 12 holes. But birdies at 17 and 18 shut the door on the competition and provided a two-stroke cushion over John Chillas, 206-208.
“Everyone was saying beforehand that I would win easily as I had a three shot lead overnight, but it didn’t turn out that way,” Smyth said. “I feel like I was playing with my handbrake on and couldn’t release it. When I went a shot behind at the 11th, it seemed to focus my mind more. I knew I had to start going for my shots or I wouldn’t win the tournament, and it worked out quite well.
“I have had two wins in America this year and this one, my first on the European Seniors Tour, is very important to me. It was important to get off to a win in Europe before too long and I am really happy about that. This has been a massive year, what with my successes on the golf course and my recent heart surgery, and next year is going to be massive as well, as I have been made Vice-Captain of the European Ryder Cup Team.”
Denis O’Sullivan tied for 16th place at 218 (73-72-73), while Eddie Polland finished 52nd at 235 (78-78-79).
Darren Clarke appears to be ending 2005 on an up note. He successfully defended his title in the Taiheiyo Masters in Japan, draining a 30-foot putt on the 72nd hole for eagle and a two-stroke victory. Clarke shot 68 on Sunday to finish 18 under par for the event at 270. The victory was his first of the year.
The calendar still reads 2005, but the European Tour has turned the page with its first event of 2006, the HSBC Champions Tournament in Shanghai, China, now in the books. David Howell stood up for a three-stroke victory over Tiger Woods, with the three-man Irish contingent showing signs of wear after an exhilarating, but long, year.
Padraig Harrington was best of the trio, earning a piece of 15th place at 281 (69-72-72-68). Graeme McDowell got off to a fine start, but came undone over the weekend, dropping to 39th place at 286 (70-67-75-74). Paul McGinley, likewise, fell down to the 53rd slot after a horrid Sunday round. His cards totaled 292 (73-70-71-78). Howell shot 268 for the win.
PGA TOUR Q-SCHOOL
Gareth Maybin now has all winter to obsess about one shot. That one shot, whether it be a missed putt, a bad drive, a flubbed chip, is all that stood between advancing to the finals of the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament and going home. After 72 holes at Hombre Golf Club in Panama City, Fla., Maybin went home. A 72-hole total of 287 bought a place in the finals at Winter Haven, Fla. the first week of December, but Maybin’s numbers totaled 288 (69-76-73-70).
The middle rounds gave Maybin the most fits. He began the second round with four bogeys over the first eight holes, and could manage only one birdie the entire day. The third round found him fighting back from a double-bogey 5 at the par-3 third hole. Another year on the Hooters Tour now beckons.
Sean Quinlivan didn’t torture himself in quite the same way. His bracket at Stonebridge Ranch in McKinney, Texas required 290 for advancement, but his 303 (74-74-74-81) was well off the mark.
EUROPEAN TOUR Q-SCHOOL
The five Irish hopefuls in the European Tour’s Qualifying Tournament at San Roque, Spain were quickly whittled to two after Stephen Browne decided not to try to improve his status for next year, while Colm Moriarty bowed out after two crushing rounds of 80. Unable to stave off elimination after the 72-hole cut were Eamonn Brady, 299 (74-74-78-73), John Kelly, 301 (78-71-75-77), and Philip Walton, 308 (78-74-79-77). The magic number for continuing over the final 36 holes turned out to be 297.
East Tennessee State’s Gareth Shaw got a piece of 12th place in the Carpet Capital Collegiate at The Farm in Rock Face, Ga. The sophomore from Lisburn, Co. Antrim finished even at 216 (73-71-72), which was 11 strokes behind the winning number of 205 posted by Georgia State’s Mark Haastrup. Shaw’s teammate, Cian McNamara, a Limerick sophomore, shared 22nd place at 220 (75-69-76). ETSU finished ninth in the 18-team field.
Southeastern Louisiana finished second in the Battle on the Bend at Cypress Bend Resort in Many, La., with Cork freshman Aaron O’Callaghan finishing 16th at 220 (74-74-72). Sophomore teammate Peter O’Keeffe, also from Cork, shared 27th place at 227 (76-77-74). Rice’s Parker LaBarge shot a winning 211.
Francis Marion senior Aengus McAllister tied for 12th place in the Troy University Invitational at Lagoon Park Golf Club in Montgomery, Ala. The Dubliner shot even-par 216 (75-69-72) to finish 13 strokes behind the medalist, Jacksonville State’s Daniel Willett. Troy’s Keith Crowley, a freshman from Ballincollig, Co. Cork, finished joint 29th at 222 (75-73-74), while Marion’s Andrew Pitcher, a Dublin freshman, shared 53rd position at 231 (79-73-79).
Wofford freshman Neil O’Briain tied for 18th place in the WCU Intercollegiate at Trillium Links in Cashiers, N.C. The Dubliner shot 149 (74-75), leaving a 13-stroke deficit between himself and UAB’s Garrett Osborn, the champ, at 136.
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