Stage is set for Couglan to go on Tour

 

By firing a four-under-par 68 in yesterday's fifth round - his fifth successive sub-70 of the week - Richard Coughlan virtually assured himself of a return to the PGA Tour next season, which will offer prize money approaching $200 million.

Coughlan's total of 23-underpar 337, with just today's final round remaining, left him in sixth spot, seven behind new leader David Morland IV.

With the top 35 players and ties gaining cards for 2001, the 26-year-old former Walker Cup star would have to have a monumental collapse not to succeed today, as the players currently in 35th place are nine shots adrift of Coughlan.

Yesterday's round began quietly, with six pars going down on the scorecard before back-to-back birdies came at 16 and 17.

Two more were recorded at the third and fourth and Coughlan made it back to the clubhouse without dropping a shot, his first bogey free round of the week.

Fourth round leader Andrew McLardy of South Africa is now in joint third with Brian Wilson on 26-under. Australia's Stephen Allan is second two shots off the pace while the only other player ahead of Coughlan, Kevin Johnson, is in fifth place after a two-under-par fifth round left him on 336.

Sean Quinlivan continued to struggle and was on eight over par after a 71 yesterday.

The limelight was stolen on Saturday by 1999 US Amateur Champion David Gossett, the 21-year-old joining one of golf's exclusive clubs when he fired a record breaking 59 to climb more than 100 places through the field.

Starting from the 10th on the Jack Nicklaus Private Course at PGA West, Gossett opened with alternate birdies, and then made four-in-a-row from the 14th to stand on the 18th tee with the possibility of an opening half of 29.

"I did think about that," he said. "I missed a 10 footer for that 29. I have never shot 29 before so I got to thinking, `Who knows maybe we can shoot 29 on the back?' and I did."

He did it when, after opening his back-nine with another birdie, he holed in one at the third, and then fired four more birdies from the sixth.

"That hole-in-one at the 162 yards downhill, eight-iron, with the mountain in the backdrop, that was cool, pretty timely, first ever in competition.

"That last putt for 59, I knew it was for 59 but I was trying not to think about that when I was over it. I rolled it right in the middle, it was fun.

"What a day. I knew I needed a good day and it's a good day's work when you move from one over to 12 under." Today is the final day, and only the top 35 finishers and ties will be awarded cards at the end of play.

Meanwhile, Robert Allenby went one better than last week to win the Australian PGA Championship at Royal Queensland in Brisbane.

Allenby, who finished second behind Aaron Baddeley in the Australian Open last weekend, beat fast-finishing Steve Conran by a stroke for his first victory at home since the 1995 Heineken Classic in Perth.

Allenby went into the final round with a four-shot buffer from Conran and was five strokes clear with six holes to play.

But despite shooting a closing two-under-par 70, the Australian was pressured late by Conran, who birdied three of the last five holes for a day's best score of 67.

Hale Irwin shot a five-under-par 67 to hold off Tom Kite and win the $600,000 Senior Slam yesterday at the Lucayan Reef Course in the Bahamas.

Irwin began the day one stroke behind Kite at the unofficial Senior Tour event but played bogey-free for the second straight day and finished at nine-under-par 135 to claim the $300,000 first prize.

The two-day event, which brings together the four reigning Senior major winners, was decided at the par-four ninth hole, which Kite double-bogeyed on his way to a two-under 70. He finished at 137 and received $150,000 for finishing second.