Date: September 08, 2008

Lucquin edges past teenager

Frenchman Jean-Francois Lucquin defeated 19-year-old Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy at the Omega European Masters on the second hole of a play-off at Crans-sur-Sierre in Switzerland. Aussie Brett Rumford (five-under) finished eight strokes adrift of McIlroy and Lucquin (13-under) in a share of 23rd position. McIlroy was a five-foot putt away from becoming the third youngest winner in European Tour history – and then saw it all go horribly wrong. After McIlroy&aposs par attempt on the 72nd hole had failed and he had angrily thrown his ball into the water by the green, the teenager had another chance to take the title at the start of sudden death. However, his 15-foot attempt missed as well and, hard though it was to believe, worse was to follow. Playing the 405-yard 18th for the third time he hit a 25-foot birdie putt 18 inches past the cup and incredibly missed that too. Lucquin, 12 feet away, suddenly had victory in his grasp. The 29-year-old, who actually lives in Switzerland, was ranked 460th in the world at the start of the week and at 127th on the Order of Merit was fighting for his future. Now he has a two-year exemption on the circuit and is 268,010 pounds ($AU 575,853) richer. For McIlroy the runners-up cheque for 178,673 pounds ($AU 383,969) – plus a 3500-pound ($AU 7521) watch for his first round 63 on Thursday (UK time) – was little consolation. Only South African Dale Hayes and Spain&aposs Seve Ballesteros had won at a younger age. “Obviously I am very disappointed,” he said. “I got very unlucky on the 18th in regulation, where it got a pretty big bounce for a sand wedge.” “I hit a good chip, but not a very good putt. Then second time around in the play-off it didn&apost really matter as he holed his.” “That made me feel a bit better after missing that putt. I can take a lot from this week – I played very well all week and played well coming down the stretch, but unfortunately one bad shot cost me.” “I came here after three missed cuts in a row and found a bit of form. It would have been nice to go home with the trophy, but I have plenty more tournaments even this year.” “It would be great to get a win this year, but if not I have the rest of my career. C&aposest la vie.” He had been four clear with a round to play, but after bogeys at the second and third suddenly found himself one behind and then down to fourth place at one point. However, last year&aposs leading amateur at The Open came back from that and moved one ahead again by sinking a 20-foot birdie putt at the long 15th. By getting down in a chip and a putt on the next two holes he stood on the last needing another par for the trophy. Going over the green gave Lucquin hope, though, and after his chip had run just past the edge of the hole he was one shot from glory. But 11 shots later it was all over and he was the loser. The pair had tied on the 13-under-par total of 271, Lucquin closing with a 67 to McIlroy&aposs bitterly disappointing level-par 71. Joint third only one behind were Ryder Cup Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez, Scot Gary Orr, Swiss player Julien Clement and another Frenchman, Christian Cevaer. Jimenez was the only member of Nick Faldo&aposs Ryder Cup team in the field – and the only player in the world&aposs top 50 – and had chances galore on the greens to win the title. “There are 14 clubs in the bag and one of them, I don&apost like him,” he said after his 67. “I had a nightmare.” For Orr it was a third top-eight finish in his last four starts. He also closed with a 67 and a birdie on the last earned him 76,383 pounds ($AU 164,125) for his week&aposs work. Lucquin said: “I have no words to explain what I am feeling. I don&apost know what happened (to McIlroy) on the second.” “He asked if he could finish, I said that was okay and he missed it. That made it easier for me.” It was the second French success in a row after Gregory Havret&aposs win at last week&aposs Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles. The country&aposs two previous successes this season, by Thomas Levet and Gregory Bourdy, also came back-to-back in Spain and Portugal. Lucquin, who claimed his first European Tour title in 175 attempts, was sprayed with champagne by compatriots, his young son Alex looking positively scared as the celebrations began. “When I saw my wife and little boy it was a dream,” he added. For McIlroy, though, it was a nightmare. Fourth Round of the Omega European Masters, Crans-sur-Sierre GC, Switzerland -13: Jean-Francois Lucquin 68 67 69 67 (won by playoff), Rory McIlroy 63 71 66 70 -12: Christian Cevaer 68 71 65 68, Julien Clement 69 68 67 68, Miguel Angel Jimenez 68 69 68 67, Orr 67 71 67 67 -11: Juan Abbate 68 67 69 69, Robert Dinwiddie 76 64 64 69, Rafa Echenique 69 70 66 68, Ross McGowan 67 73 66 67 -10: Alejandro Canizares 67 68 69 70, Francesco Molinari 69 70 69 66, Julio Zapata 66 72 67 69 -9: Barry Lane 71 70 65 69, Michael Lorenzo-Vera 70 69 71 65, Richard Sterne 69 70 68 68 -8: Mark Foster 72 66 68 70, Louis Oosthuizen 69 68 71 68 Also: -5: Brett Rumford (Australia) 67 67 73 72 -2: Scott Barr (Australia) 69 68 76 69 +2: Matthew Millar (Australia) 70 72 70 74 +3: Marcus Fraser (Australia) 74 68 74 71