American Steve Stricker beat Swede Pierre Fulke two and one to become the million-dollar winner of the Accenture world match play championship in Melbourne today. Stricker, originally the 26th reserve for an event hit by the withdrawal of no fewer than 40 stars, led from the time that Fulke had a hat-trick of bogeys starting at the 15th of the 36 holes.
The conqueror of top seed Ernie Els in the semi-finals got back to only one down with eight to play and had putts to level on four successive greens, but failed to make any of them. He then pulled his two-iron approach to the penultimate hole into a bunker, came out to 15 feet and missed a putt which this time was to stay alive. Fulke, certain to win a first Ryder Cup cap in September after his performance, earned over £334,000 for his performance, but was understandably disappointed not to keep the trophy in European hands after Darren Clarke's victory over Tiger Woods last February. Els lost again in the 18-hole third place play-off. Japan's Toru Taniguchi beat the world number two four and three.
Els had said before they teed off, "I've got better things to do", and his mind was clearly elsewhere as he made a mess of the third, fourth and fifth - the last of them after topping his drive and failing even to make the fairway. He still collected over £200,000 after being the only member of the world's top seven to turn up for an event rejected by 40 stars in all because of its timing so soon after Christmas.
Filed by Pat Nugent