Europeans wrap up last-minute Ryder Cup berths
by Associated Press
NORD-EICHENRIED, Germany (AP) - Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez won his fourth title on the European tour this season, recording three birdies in a four-hole stretch on the back nine to pull away for a two-stroke victory at the BMW International Open while four others claimed Ryder Cup berths.
Jimenez birdied Nos. 11, 13 and 14 to break open a duel with France's Thomas Levet, finishing with a final-round 66 and a 72-hole total of 21-under 267. On a cool, windless day, Levet shot 68 for a 19-under 269, while Germany's Alex Cejka, England's Paul Casey and Colin Montgomerie were another three back at 272.
"This is my best year of my career, with all the top 10 finishes," the 40-year-old Spaniard said. "I was relaxed, I've been relaxed all year. Maybe it was too my advantage that they were all fighting for a Ryder Cup berth."
The event was dominated by the attention paid to those vying for the six open berths on the Ryder Cup team. Casey shot 65 to finish third, securing one of four guaranteed spots and was joined by countrymen David Howell and Ian Poulter and Irishman Paul McGinley.
Captain Bernhard Langer then chose Montgomerie and Englishman Luke Donald to complete the 12-man team.
They were added to the six who already had qualified: Jimenez, Levet, Darren Clarke, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Padraig Harrington.
The Ryder Cup is scheduled for Sept. 17-19 at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Township, Michigan.
Jimenez, who has eight top-10-finishes this season, earned ?300,000 euros (US$361,000) for his 11th career victory on the European tour. He won the Johnnie Walker Classic in Bangkok, Thailand, in February; the Algarve Open in Portimao, Portugal, in April; and the Asian Open in Shanghai, China, in May.
Montgomerie shot a final-round 68, and challenged for the lead until a bogey at 13 ended his bid. His performance combined with a wealth of Ryder Cup experience was expected to earn him consideration for one of Langer's two captain's selections.
The 41-year-old Scotsman has been one of the Ryder Cup's best players the past decade, playing on five European winners and never losing in singles.
"I tried to win, but Jimenez just kept making birdies. What concerns me is this is my best finish since winning the Caltex Masters," he said of the Singapore where he recorded his first victory in 16 months.
Cejka, who shot a final-round 65, and Sweden's Fredrik Jacobson also had been mentioned as possible captain's picks.
Jacobson entered the weekend 13th on the money list, but challenged those above him in the standings throughout the tournament by remaining on the leaderboard.
The Swede was in fourth place and pressing Poulter and McGinley until a bogey at No. 15 dropped him back, finishing with a 69 and in a tie for sixth at 15 under.
Poulter twice hit into the water at No. 10 and took a quadruple bogey-8, dropping him to 45th, the very last spot that would qualify for him for the Ryder Cup if Jacobson could hold on to fourth.
But the spiky-haired Poulter, the European tour's 2001 rookie-of-the-year, recovered immediately with an eagle-3 at No. 11, and closed with birdies at 15 and 16 and a second eagle-3 at 18.
After his putt dropped at the 18th, he tossed his cap in relief and was clapped on the back by playing partner Clarke.
"The guys kept saying, come on, make some birdies. After that quadruple bogey, I went into overdrive," Poulter said. "I played some unbelievable golf."
Poulter's 70 left him with a share of 25th at 278.
McGinley shot a final-round 68 and joined Jacobson, Retief Goosen (70), Clarke (65) and England's David Lynn (69) at 15-under 273.
McGinley's performance completed a 10th consecutive week on tour and a return to the Ryder Cup, where his 8-foot putt clinched the European victory at The Belfrey two years ago.
"I'm relieved. This was very important to me. I tasted the Ryder Cup before and I want more," McGinley said.
Howell struggled the most of all over the final three holes, taking a double-bogey 6 at 16 and a bogey-4 at 17 before finishing with a birdie-4 to complete a 69 for an 11-under 277 and a tie for 22nd place. Donald finished a stroke ahead after a final-round 69.
John Daly, the 2001 champion, finished with a share of llth after a 65 and 274 and Westwood was another stroke back. Garcia shared 25th at 278.
"It wasn't just the Ryder Cup, I'm proud I beat a pretty good field," Jimenez said.