• Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, Round Four

Hoey claims biggest win of career at St Andrews

ESPN staff
October 2, 2011


Michael Hoey held his nerve to finish strongly over the final stages and claim the biggest win of his professional career at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

With his three-shot overnight lead quickly eroded after Rory McIlroy's fast start, Hoey found vital birdies at both 15 and 16 to edge back into the lead, before birdying the last to beat his fellow Northern Irishman by two shots after a closing round of 68.

"It's unbelievable, all my dreams come true really," a triumphant Hoey said. "Today was about keeping calm and I managed to do that."

It was McIlroy who made the early running as he raced to the turn at St Andrews in 30 (including an eagle two at the third) to threaten both his own course record at the home of golf and Hoey's advantage. But the US Open champion could not keep up his phenomenal pace on the back nine, as Hoey stayed in contention despite a lack of real fireworks.

Hoey, a two-time winner on the European Tour, birdied his second hole but gave the shot back at the very next before going over par for his round with another dropped shot at the seventh. But two birdies at the eighth and ninth helped him back into a strong position at the turn.

Nevertheless it was McIlroy who led as the duo entered the final four holes of the tournament. But, while Hoey was able to pick up shots at both the 15th and 16th his rival could only make a succession of pars, meaning McIlroy came to the 18th a shot adrift.

He needed a birdie but was frustratingly denied as his long iron off the tee unluckily bounced off the cart path that runs across the middle of the fairway, leaving McIlroy an awkward pitch shot that agonisingly trickled back into the Valley of Sin at the front of the green.

Par was the best he could do from there, leaving a slightly sour taste to an otherwise good round of 65. As a result, Hoey knew a par at the same hole would win him the tournament. Instead he made birdie; a booming drive leaving him a safe chip that he ran up to three feet and rolled in to finish the tournament on 22-under.

"Kind of, but no - not really," Hoey said, when asked if he managed to enjoy his walk up 18. "I had a difficult chip to face, but my short game has been unbelievable this week."

Graeme McDowell ensured Ulstermen dominated the top of the leaderboard as he finished third alongside Scot George Murray, four shots adrift of his 2001 Walker Cup team-mate. McDowell had started as Hoey's nearest challenger going into the final round but struggled to get anything going on the back nine, as he eventually carded a closing round of 69 that saw him lose a little ground on the day.

Former Open champion Louis Oosthuizen finished in a tie for fifth at 17-under after a closing round of 69, alongside Tommy Fleetwood and Marc Warren.

Padraig Harrington took sole possession of eighth after a final round of 68, while Luke Donald (70), Charl Schwartzel (69) and Simon Dyson (70) were among a number of players to sneak inside the top ten in an eight-way tie for ninth.

In the pro-am element of the tournament, media personality Chris Evans and his professional partner Nick Dougherty claimed victory with a 40-under-par better ball total for the four rounds.

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