Clark defeats Goggin in Open playoff

South African Tim Clark has more reason to love Australia now. The 32-year-old today won Australian Open Championship at Royal Sydney when he birdied the final hole of regulation play and then produced a great bunker save at the first extra hole to edge out Tasmanian Mathew Goggin.

"This is my first trip down here "“ I have been meaning to come down here for a long time and I have really enjoyed it," he said referring to his three tournament swing in Australia.

"I feel more welcome playing here than I do at home," he said when asked if he felt any pressure for not playing in South Africa in a week where there is a significant tournament in his homeland.

Clark's final round of 67 was the best of the day and when you consider that it included a double bogey and bogey through holes 14 and 15, it was a round that deserved more than just a placegetters cheque.

"I would consider it one of my best rounds of the year more so because I finished it off with a couple of birdies after the double bogey and the bogey. If I had not been able to do that then it would have been just another round."

"I think that being so far from the lead on both Saturday and Sunday helped as there was no pressure on me. It was like I snuck up on them. The start I made with three birdies in the first three holes made me think there might be a chance but after getting to ten under and then double bogeyed the 14th it was tough."

"It shook me and the bogey at the next was a reflection on that. To have been on such a roll and then to falter like that was hard to take."

"I had pretty much packed up my locker and told my caddie Anthony that I would see him in a few months in the US," said Clark referring to the fact that he was not expecting to get into the playoff.

"I was eating pie and chips and when I saw Mathew heading for the driving range I thought maybe I better consider it also."

"I would like to feel elated about this, and I am sure I will, but it is hard at present as I know that two guys are feeling pretty bad about it. I know how David (Smail) feels," he added indicating that he too has been on the receiving end of such a demise.

Seven days ago Tasmanian, Mathew Goggin, was the victim of a last round collapse when he allowed a three shot final round lead at the Australian PGA Championship to evaporate. Today, in the final round of the Australian Open at the Royal Sydney Golf Club, he very nearly became the beneficiary of a similar collapse when New Zealander David Smail's four shot lead at the 9th hole finally disappeared with a double bogey at the 16th.

It was to be yet another runner up finish for Goggin however.

"I have finished runner up a lot now but it has been a good year. I didn't really do anything that poorly."

"I feel for David "“ it is brutal for him. 9 under never looked like being in a playoff but there you go."

Third round leader, Smail had been able to fend off early challenges from Tim Wood and Tim Clark before the turn and when he headed to the 10th tee at 2 under for the day and 13 under for the tournament he had opened up a four shot lead over Stephen Dartnall.

Smail's troubles were caused by poor tee shots at the 15th and 16th holes which led to consecutive double bogeys. He was unable to secure the birdie he needed over the final two holes to force his way back into the playoff.

Recent New South Wales PGA Champion, Wood, began in spectacular style when he eagled the par four 1st and then birdied the second and third holes and almost before he knew it he was at 10 under and within one. Wood drew level with Smail when he birdied the par 5 7th hole but after making the turn in 32, his challenge ended with four consecutive bogeys.

Wood has however made huge strides with his game in recent months and despite his struggling back nine holes will be all the better for the experience he gained today. He finished in a share of 11th.

Sharing third place was Robert Allenby, Stephen Dartnall and the luckless Smail. By Sunday evening the leaderboard was littered with highly credentialed players, reflecting the fact that the quality Royal Sydney layout won out in the end.

The exception to this was the relatively inexperienced Stephen Dartnall who defied the odds to hold on and finish third. Dartnall will take a lot from this week being able to contend for so long then still finish third. For one of this limited experience at this level this is week he can build on. The A$77,000 won't hurt either.

And so the 2008 Australasian Tour Order of Merit comes to an end and despite the struggles of David Smail, New Zealand had a win of sorts today when Mark Brown held aloft the trophy for finishing on top.

Bruce Young
About The Author : Bruce Young

A multi-award winning golf journalist, Bruce's extensive knowledge of and background in the game of golf comes from several years caddying the tournament circuits of the world, marketing a successful golf course design company and as one of Australia's leading golf journalists and commentators.

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