Cool Lara seals play-off victory in Austria

SPAIN’S Jose Manuel Lara won his second European Tour title and saved his tour card after getting the better of England’s David Lynn in a play-off at the Austrian Open.

Lara had missed nine successive cuts before finishing fourth at last week’s KLM Open, and the confidence he gleaned from that performance carried him to an emotional triumph in Atzenbrugg yesterday.

The 33-year-old from Valencia surged up the leaderboard from eighth place overnight after recording 10 birdies and two bogeys in his eight-under-par round of 64.

That meant he finished tied on 17-under 271 for the tournament with Stoke-based Lynn, who carded 68, as the pair overtook overnight leader Danny Willett, who finished with three successive bogeys.

The leading pair both returned to the 18th tee to decide the victor, and Lynn put himself in trouble on the par-four hole by finding rough on the right, behind a grass bank and almost in a bunker. From there he could only trundle the ball halfway to the green.

Lara’s tee shot was not perfect, finding light rough on the left, but he was able to find the putting surface with his second shot. Lynn pitched his third shot to around 15 feet, but Lara then putted to four feet.

The pressure was on the 37-year-old Englishman and he failed to hole his testing putt, allowing Lara to step forward and find the heart of the hole to take victory with a par.

Willett had to settle for a share of third place on 14 under par, alongside Ireland’s Graeme McDowell and Alexander Noren of Sweden.

Lara won his only previous European Tour title outside of Europe, prevailing at the Hong Kong Open in November 2006.

Yesterday he celebrated with his caddie, embraced runner-up Lynn, and was then chased around the green by champagne-spraying players, including his fellow Spaniard, Miguel Angel Jimenez.

Lara had plenty of reason to be satisfied, not least the winner’s cheque for €125,000.

He came into the tournament at a lowly 130th in the Race to Dubai, and was in danger of having to go to the qualifying school to earn his card for next season. Victory solves that problem though, guaranteeing him a place on next year’s tour.

Lara is now targeting a place at the end-of-season Dubai World Championship, although he will need to keep earning good money to nudge towards the required top-60 finish in the Race to Dubai.


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