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Battle of the Irish

Hoey holds his nerve to claim Alfred Dunhill crown

Irish golfers dominated play at St. Andrews on Sunday and it was Michael Hoey who came out on top to claim another tournament win.

NORTHERN IRELAND’s Michael Hoey survived a massive challenge from compatriot Rory McIlroy to win the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship by two shots on Sunday, a tournament he led virtually from start to finish.

The 32-year-old was three strokes ahead of the rest of the field as the final day of action got underway but few could have predicted the form that McIlroy would find, particularly on the front nine where the latter picked up six shots including an eagle on the third hole.

McIlroy even took over at the top of the leaderboard after Hoey stumbled with his second bogey of the day on the seventh, before hitting back with consecutive birdies at eight and nine to draw level with the US Open champion.

A superb tee shot saw McIlroy edge ahead again with another birdie on the 11th but that, surprisingly, was as good as it got for the Holywood native and though Hoey missed a birdie chance from four feet on the 14th, he steadied his nerves to pick up three strokes over the closing four holes, finishing for a 22-under-par total of 266 and sealing his second European Tour win of 2011.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet and it won’t for a while,” Hoey, who claimed a prize cheque for €588,148, said afterwards. “It’s taken a long time, but I supposed in a weird way you enjoy it more because you have struggled through six goes at the Qualifying School.

“It’s not nice running out of money, being away from home, questioning your swing, and there are points where you wonder ‘Do I want to continue with this?’.”

Tied for third were Scot George Murray and Graeme McDowell, who briefly threatened to get involved in the leaders battle as he worked his way to a round of 69.

Marc Warren, Tommy Fleetwood and former Open champion Louis Oosthuizen shared fifth, while a final-round card of 69 saw Padraig Harrington finish eighth and on 16-under-par. Peter Lawrie and Shane Lowry both ended their weekend on -8, enough for a share of 45th position.

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