2006: Broadhurst’s double dip

Portimao, Portugal

The final tally for European Ryder Cup points is 22 weeks away, but if Paul Broadhurst continues his steady play through Sept. 3 there’s a good chance he might rejoin Team Europe after a 15-year absence.

Broadhurst, 40, defended his title April 2 at the Algarve Open de Portugal, making birdie at the 72nd hole to score a one-shot victory over fellow Englishman Anthony Wall. Broadhurst shot 17-under-par 271 at the Le Meridien Penina Golf and Resort and moved to seventh on the Ryder Cup points list.

In 1991, Broadhurst was 2-0 in the infamous “War By the Shore” at Kiawah Island (won by the United States, 141⁄2 -131⁄2). Included was a four-ball victory with this year’s European captain, Ian Woosnam.

“Woosie’s a great mate of mine and he has phoned me already to congratulate me,” Broadhurst said after collecting his Portuguese Open trophy. “He didn’t mention anything about the Ryder Cup – he knows me better than that. He just phoned to say well done and I wished him all the best for the Masters.”

Broadhurst led after 18 and 36 holes, but fell behind Ricardo Gonzalez of Argentina by a shot after Round 3. Gonzalez (71) opened with a bogey Sunday; Broadhurst regained the lead and built a three-shot cushion with five birdies in a six-hole stretch beginning at the second. Wall’s birdie at the last – his third in four holes – briefly tied him for the lead, but Broadhurst rebounded from a bogey at the 17th by making 4 at the par-5 home hole.

If he does earn a Ryder Cup berth, Broadhurst said he’ll be ready.

“I thought (the final round) was a big test – especially when I was leading early on,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is a totally different type of pressure. If you blow up here then you have let yourself down and that’s it, but if you mess up in the Ryder Cup then you have let a whole team down.”

Ryder Cups typically come down to putting, so Broadhurst might be a handy guy for the Europeans to have at The K Club. He leads the European Tour in putts per round (27.8).

Broadhurst’s two victories here are his only wins since 1995. His career suffered a setback in 2000, when surgery was required to fix a right hand injury suffered during the Dubai Desert Classic. Two lean years ensued, but Broadhurst steadily has regained form the past three seasons, finishing 89th, 44th and 22th on the Order of Merit. He made a strong stretch run last season, with six top-16 finishes in his last nine events.

Broadhurst finished runner-up at the Qatar Masters, but fell steadily down the scoreboard in his next four outings. A T-94 at the TCL Classic in China prompted him to return home for some work with instructor Bob Torrance, which paid off in Portugal.

Ferrie tale: Despite taking six weeks off prior to the Madeira Island Open, England’s Kenneth Ferrie is very much alive in the Ryder Cup race, sitting at No. 9 on the European points list.

Ferrie, 27, had his best season last year, when he won the Smurfit European Open and finished 11th on the Order of Merit. However, he has had an indifferent start to 2006, and decided he needed a break after a poor run in the Far East. At Madeira, Ferrie put 13 new clubs in his bag. “Someone said to me recently that the definition of stupidity is doing the same thing and expecting different results,” he said.

Ferrie shot 75-73 and missed the cut at Madeira, but tied for 24th at Algarve.

Short shots: Paul Holtby played Algarve on the first of two sponsor exemptions he earned with his victory

on The Golf Channel’s Big Break IV. Holtby shot 76-69 and missed the cut

by one.

– Alistair Tait and wire reports

On the tee

Next up: Volvo China Open, April 13-16, Honghua International Golf Club, Beijing. Defending champion: Paul Casey.

The buzz: Casey is back for a title defense and will try to win the same event twice in one season. He won the China Open in November (the second event of the 2006 schedule).

First-round play was briefly interrupted when five parachutists accidentally landed on the course. One of them reportedly had trouble and opened a backup chute. The other four decided to follow, citing safety concerns. “There was no real hold-up,” tournament official Paul Carrigill said. “The players had a look and got on with it. The parachutists were extremely apologetic.” . . .

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