Tue, May 20, 2008 - Page 18 News List

Finch makes a big splash as he wins Irish Open

AFP , ADARE MANOR, IRELAND

Irish Open champion Richard Finch of England climbs out of the water on the 18th fairway after hitting his third shot during the fourth round of the Irish Open at Adare Manor in Limerick, Ireland, on Sunday.

PHOTO: AFP

England’s Richard Finch made a big splash as he clinched his second European Tour title with a victory at the Irish Open on Sunday.

Finch, 30, will not forget his success here at Adare Manor in a hurry and neither will the spectators who saw it after he fell into the water on the final hole.

The reigning New Zealand Open champion was cruising to the title as he held a three-stroke lead going into the par-five 18th. But when his second shot finished on the bank of the River Maigue he was about to make a name for himself in more ways than one.

Playing his third stroke, Finch lost his balance and fell into the water. Suddenly he was Europe’s answer to “Aquaman” — the name given to American Woody Austin when he did the same thing in September’s Presidents Cup.

Finch managed to struggle out of the water with a smile on his face because his ball had still landed on the green.

Although he then three-putted for a bogey six, the former English amateur champion finished two shots ahead of Chilean Felipe Aguilar, clinching a first prize of £330,297 (US$646,050)

Asked about his embarrassing fall, Finch said: “It was not a choice really. It was a bit of an awkward stance, but I never gave falling in a thought. The momentum of the follow-through took me round and in.”

Finch, fighting for his future on the European Tour until the final day of last season, shot a closing 70 for a 10-under total of 278.

Only 218th in the world entering the event, Finch now stands fifth on the Order of Merit — 105 places higher than he was last season — and is only just outside the top 10 in the Ryder Cup standings.

“I was a lot calmer than I was in New Zealand and although my swing was not great, I felt a lot more in control,” he said.

SYBASE CLASSIC

AFP, CLIFTON, New Jersey

World No. 1 Lorena Ochoa of Mexico won her sixth title of the year on Sunday, firing a one-under 71 to capture the LPGA Sybase Classic for the third year in a row.

Two weeks after her four-event LPGA win streak was snapped, Ochoa captured the US$300,000 top prize at the US$2 million tournament with a 54-hole total of 10-under 206, one stroke ahead of five rivals.

The tournament was shortened to three rounds after heavy rain swamped the course on Friday, prompting officials to throw out the few scores that had been posted and start the second round anew on Saturday.

South Korea’s Choi Na-yeon, Britain’s Catriona Matthew, Sweden’s Sophie Gustafson and Americans Brittany Lang and Morgan Pressel shared second on 207.

Despite her sparkling record this season, Ochoa had struggled in her previous two events, finishing fifth at the SemGroup Championship and tied for 12th at last weekend’s Michelob Ultra Open.

“It feels so good to have defended my title,” Ochoa said. “It was getting tight at the end and I knew a lot of players were making birdies. But it was great to hang on.”

Ochoa, who seized the lead on Saturday, fended off late charges by Pressel and Matthew, Pressel firing a final-round 66 and Matthew a 67.

“I think as professionals we are here to feel [pressure],” Ochoa said. “Just to get excitement and get the feel of trying to win a tournament, being close, on the lead — but so many players were behind me. I think there were like five or six players just right there at eight and nine-under, so it was a difficult situation. I love the feeling of adrenaline and just trying to be good and be smart and win at the end.”

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