McGrane finally breaks the ice

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 April, 2008, 12:00am

Irishman Damien McGrane loves harsh environments and wide-open spaces. He got both yesterday as he mastered driving wind and rain at the US$2.2 million Volvo China Open to claim his maiden win by a mile.

The 37-year-old journeyman wanted to chill out in the Antarctica at Christmas but the boat was damaged on the eve of the trip and instead he spent two weeks in Santiago, Chile. Refreshed by the experience - his first real holiday - and then encouraged by a third-round 'victory' over Tiger Woods in Dubai in February, McGrane has emerged as a transformed player and one of the most consistent on the European Tour.

As the field fell away, McGrane (pictured) was the only one standing - nine shots clear and with a cheque for US$366,660.

His final-round one-over-par 73 gave him a 10-under 278 total in the co-sanctioned Asian and European Tour event.

'I'm absolutely overjoyed,' he said of finally winning at his 169th tournament. 'I've spent a lot of time talking about it. Now the world is my oyster and I hope to go on and win more events.'

Oliver Wilson (England) and Michael Lorenzo-Vera (France), who both started the day three strokes behind leader McGrane, collapsed to 79s and ended up in a share of second at one under, along with Simon Griffiths (England).

Asian Tour order of merit leader Mark Brown, of New Zealand, threw away second place - and US$244,440 - with a triple bogey eight on the last hole. Brown (77) ended up in a tie for fifth with defending champion Markus Brier (Austria) and Graeme McDowell (Northern Ireland).

McGrane's margin of victory at the Beijing CBD International Golf Club was the biggest in the open's 14-year history.

'It was extremely difficult out there,' he said. 'The conditions stopped players from making a charge at me. Everyone needed a short game and I knew I had it. That's the reason I won.'

McGrane said he loved nature and Antarctica was still top of his 'to-do' list: 'I'll go next Christmas and now I have some spending money.'