KHAN IS THE MAN TO TAKE THE TITLE.
Former London cabbie Simon Khan took route 67 to pounds 250,000 at the Celtic Manor yesterday and admitted: "I always believed I could do it."
The 31-year-old Chingford pro, ranked 255th in the world, came through a tense two-hole play-off with hot favourite Paul Casey after both players finished 21 under par.
It gave Khan the Wales Open title after smashing the Wentwood Hills course record with his 61 on Friday to complete a rags to riches story for the passionate Arsenal supporter, whose best finish before yesterday was joint fourth in the 2003 Caltex Masters in Singapore.
Despite trailing Casey by three strokes going into the final round, Khan revealed he never gave up hope of overhauling the Ryder Cup hopeful.
"I always believed I could get there and I have worked on roofs, lead roofing and pipe fitting, taxi driving the lot so it makes it sweeter now," said Khan.
I don't want to stop here, I want to keep improving and move up to the level of the Paul Caseys and Ian Poulters.
"I always believed I would get here. Sometimes the evidence doesn't support that when you are struggling on the Mastercard Tour and staying in some not very nice bed and breakfasts.
"But I always had my sights on this and it was a long road doing it at 31 after turning pro at 19. It is starting to sink in.'
Casey started the day with a three-shot buffer over Khan but the cushion was down to two after the first when Khan carded a birdie to Casey's bogey.
Casey's birdie at the second put three-shot daylight between the pair and Khan let a shot slip further at the fourth with a bogey five.
Birdies at the sixth and eighth looked more like sealing second than stealing the title as Casey picked up shots at the eighth, 10th and 11th.
The huge momentum swing came when Khan birdied the 13th, 14th and 16th while Casey picked up a horrendous six at the par four 15th after a wayward drive and three putts.
Khan missed a golden chance to seal it on the 18th after both players were in the greenside bunker for two.
Casey holed out, but Khan missed from six feet.
In the first play-off hole both missed the fairway to the left and Khan hit a tree with his second and was bunkered. His miraculous shot from the sand found the fringe of the green, while Casey was also just off the putting surface for two and both got up and down to go to the 18th again. After both players found the centre of the fairway Casey pushed his second into the rough while Khan found an identical position at the front of the green and saw Casey fluff his first pitch shot and saw his second go eight feet past the stick.
His putt to three foot was cooly holed to pick up the pounds 250,000 cheque.
"I was so focused in that final round and wanted to do myself justice. I didn't look at the leaderboard on the way round and tried not to pay any attention to what Paul was doing.
"I was aware there were critical times during the round and my 25 foot putt on the 13th was crucial and gave me some impetus after Paul put it to two foot.'
Casey picked up pounds 166,660 for his efforts but admitted: "I never really got going.
"The bogey at the first got me off to a bad start and Simon played a very good round of golf. It was one of those rounds for me that was a real grind.'
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|Publication:||South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)|
|Date:||Jun 7, 2004|
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