Lara can relax
With the Austrian Open outside the range of qualifying events for the WGC-HSBC Champions, Jose Manuel Lara's weekend victory will not take him to Shanghai. However, it will take him to plenty of other places in that he has now jumped comfortably inside the top 115 players who will hang on to their playing rights in Europe for 2011.
The 33-year-old Lara defeated David Lynn at the first extra hole. Where he caught the green at the par-four 18th in two, Lynn found a bad lie off the tee and had to play short of the putting surface in two on his way to a five.
"I've saved my card," cried the winner, whose compatriots were no less happy for him than they were for Miguel Angel Jimenez when the senior Spaniard secured his place in the Ryder Cup.
Lara, who had had as many as seven missed cuts before finishing fourth in the KLM in Holland, said he had felt confident the tide was beginning to turn. "I was expecting something good. I was hitting the ball really well but even in my best dreams I never imagined I would play quite as well as I did," he said.
Having come storming into contention with four birdies in a row from the third, this member of Spain's 2007 World Cup team - he stepped in for an under-the-weather Jose Maria Olazabal - had a couple of three-putt greens late in the day before holing a swirling 20-footer at the last for a closing 64. That holed putt left him at 17 under for the tournament.
At that point, Lynn and David Willett still had two holes to play. Lynn closed with a couple of pars but the somewhat less experienced Willett stumbled with bogeys to miss out on the extra hole.
Lara's card-saving efforts - he rose from 130 on the Race to Dubai to 93rd - were not the only aspect of the tournament to set everyone talking. For the host country, there was all the fun of having their 15-year-old Amateur champion, Matthias Schwab, keeping up with the professionals and recording the best finish yet on the European Tour - 32nd - for a player of his age. After his second and third round 69s, the schoolboy was no more than five shots off the pace. As you would expect, the question everyone was asking was whether he will soon be featuring alongside such other talented teens as as Matteo Manassero and Ryo Ishikawa.
In the States, the golfers were playing a waiting game before this week's final instalment of the Fed-Ex Series, the Tour Championship presented by Coca Cola. After the three preliminary events, Matt Kuchar leads the way, with Dustin Johnson in second place and Charlie Hoffman, the most recent player to make it into the WGC-HSBC Champions, third.
The winner of the Tour championship will make the field for Shanghai, while the other qualifying events which lie ahead are as follows:
Alfred Dunhill Links, Portugal Masters, Castello Masters, Justin Timberlake and Andalucia Masters.
The way things have gone so far in this 2010 season, there are almost bound to be a couple of players who, just as Peter Hanson and Edoardo Molinari notched a win apiece to snatch their Ryder Cup, will come up with the right result in the nick of time.
There is, of course, one other route into the WGC-HSBC Champions....
Namely, via the top 25 on the Official World Golf Rankings as the list stands on the 27th September, the day after the Tour Championship.
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