Fasth keeps his nerve


Sweden's Niclas Fasth led from start to finish to claim his first European Tour title in the Madeira Island Open.

Fasth had the luxury of carding a final round of 73 at Santo da Serra for a nine-under-par total of 279 and a two-stroke victory worth £56,000.

Fellow Swede Richard Johnson, England's Mark Davis and Scot Ross Drummond finished in a tie for second place on seven under, with another Swede, Raimo Sjoberg, and midlander John Bickerton another shot back.

The performances of Davis and Drummond, who both carded 67s, were remarkable for differing reasons as the pair made contrasting returns to the game.

Davis (35) from Essex, feared he may never play again after a serious knee injury decimated his season last year when he could only play in seven events.

The former English amateur champion, who needs a medical exemption to play this year, underwent a gruelling operation in which seven holes were drilled in his left knee to repair damaged cartilage under the kneecap.

"It was a bit messy with a lot of drilling," recalled Davis, who won two tour events in Austria in 1991 and 1994. "I didn't hit any balls for 10 months and so it's nice to be back.

"They said it would only take four months to heal but it wasn't getting any better until a friend recommended I went to see a doctor in Munich, Volker Smasal, who works with the Olympic skaters and skiers, and he sorted me out.

"I didn't think I'd be playing again so I'm delighted to be out here. I can still feel it now and again, especially when you're playing on a slope, so this week was a good test."

In contrast Drummond was making his first appearance on the tour this year having lost his card and being reliant on invites to get into tournaments.

The 43-year-old from Prestwick - without a win in over 20 years on tour - considers himself "semi-retired" as his opportunities are so limited, and surprised himself with such a good finish, mainly thanks to an inward half of 30 with five birdies in six holes.

"I've surprised myself this week," said Drummond, the subject of best-selling golf book Four Iron in the Soul by musician-turned-writer Lawrence Donegan.

"It's my first start and I've played well all week. I put my clubs away after missing out at the tour school in November and only played half a dozen times since.

"I played a mini-tour event in Scotland last week and played quite well and that gave me a bit of confidence.

"I don't have a card any more so I can't enter for most tournaments. The starts are going to be few and far between and I may only get four or five.

"I don't know if I am really switched on for playing. I haven't done much planning as I've got nothing to play in. I'll just play in Scotland on the Tartan Tour.

"I see myself playing there and reassessing the situation later in the year. I felt as if I had to win here (to get an exemption). A high finish is good financially but I really had to win."

For Fasth the win fulfilled his own predictions that a victory was around the corner and he always looked favourite throughout the final day as one by one his challengers came and went.

England's Jim Payne halved his overnight deficit with a birdie on the third hole to close to within a shot of the 27-year-old Swede, only to then drop five shots in the next three holes on his way to a 78.

Johnson also closed the gap to two shots on two occasions but after an outward half of 37 Fasth made crucial birdies at the 10th and 11th holes to establish a cushion.

"It feels really good," said Fasth, who finished second in the qualifying school last year to regain his card.

"I played really solidly all week and although it was more difficult than I thought, I tried to play my own game and being patient.

"I've spent so many years working on the basics and getting the swing right and now the thing is about getting results."