Outrageous fortune for Spanish trio


Miguel Angel Martin, the man who was kicked off Europe's Ryder Cup team three years ago, brought the curtain down on the Alfred Dunhill Cup - not just for this year, but for good unless there is a change of heart - by bringing Spain their second successive triumph at St Andrews yesterday.

In the final staging of the £1 million event, Spain beat South Africa 2-1 when Martin sank an outrageous 50-foot putt on the last and then David Frost three-putted the first extra hole.

"Miguel Angel may not be big in size, but he has the heart of a lion," said a jubilant captain, Jose-Maria Olazabal.

"The way he came back from double-bogeying the 17th was incredible. It's been a great week and to win like this is the icing on the cake."

It all boiled down to the Frost-Martin play-off once Miguel Angel Jimenez beat Retief Goosen 70-72 and twice US Open champion Ernie Els defeated twice US Masters champion Olazabal, just as he did in the 1998 final between the two teams.

Frost led by one with two to play, but in a comedy of errors both went over the green at the fearsome 17th and ran up double bogey sixes.

When Martin's pitch to the last struck the flag stick and spun back into the Valley of Sin it looked all over. But, just like Costantino Rocca at the 1995 Open, the 38-year-old from Madrid sank his putt from off the green.

Unlike Rocca, who still went on to lose to John Daly, Martin went on to be the hero.

It was hard luck, though, on Els, whose 68 to beat Olazabal by two meant he finished the week with a 20 under par aggregate, equalling the record in the competition set by Nick Faldo over four rounds in 1988 and matched by Nick Price over five rounds five years ago.

He should have beaten it, missing from less than two feet on the last, but victory was his by then and that also made Els the most successful player in the event's history. He won all his five games this time to take his total to 26 victories in 36 games.

They will stand as records for all-time unless the tournament makes a return at some time in the future.

After 16 years the sponsors have decided it is "time for a change" and have come up not just with the idea of a celebrity pro-am, but also more cash than any golf event ever staged in Britain.

But with an even later date of October 18th-21st next season it still remains to be seen how many world stars they can attract.

This year's field was the weakest ever. England did not have Lee Westwood, Ireland were without Darren Clarke, Sergio Garcia did not choose to defend the title he won with Olazabal and Jimenez last year, Australia did not have any of their top five players in the world rankings and America had to go to world number 126 Larry Mize and number 424 John Daly, neither of whom have won in the last five years, to complete their line-up.

Phil Price, meanwhile, left St Andrews unbeaten, but also unfulfilled after Wales fell at the semi-final hurdle before lunch.

Trying to put their name on the trophy at the final attempt Wales went down 21/21/2 to South Africa.

Price, the 33-year-old who in August won nearly £300,000 for finishing joint runner-up to Woods at the NEC world championship, made it three wins and a half out of four during the week when he shot 68 to tie with Goosen.

But for most of the round the Pontypridd golfer, who as captain of the eighth seeds put himself out last hoping he either would not be needed or could come to Wales' rescue, knew his efforts were entirely in vain.

In the top match Ian Woosnam, in trouble from the moment he lost a ball on the long fifth and ran up a double bogey seven, managed only a four over 76 against Frost and lost by six.

Then David Park, out-classed by Els, double-bogeyed both the 16th and 17th as he crashed to a 77 and was crushed by eight shots.

Park was always facing the toughest task against the world number two and could not find a way back after bogeying the fourth and then seeing Els birdie three of the next four.

Price led with one to play, but Goosen closed with a birdie to catch him and with South Africa already through there was no need for them to go into extra holes.

In the other semi-final Spain beat second seeds Argentina 2-1. Olazabal beat Angel Cabrera 6971 - Cabrera bogeyed the last two holes - and when Eduardo Romero beat Jimenez by the same score everything depended on Martin and Jose Coceres.

They were level with four to play, but Coceres bogeyed the 15th and 16th, missing there from eight feet after Martin had holed from further away, and a birdie at the last came too late.