GOLF: Irish Open glory for Donaldson

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A week that meant so much to Northern Ireland turned out to mean even more for Welshman Jamie Donaldson tonight.

In his 255th European Tour event and after a career in which he has had to battle with a genetic spine problem, 36-year-old finally tasted victory in the Irish Open at Royal Portrush - and did it by four shots with five birdies in his last seven holes.

This was the first time since 1953 that the tournament had been played north of the border and what a success it was, with record crowds ever for a regular Tour event - over 112,000 for the four days.

Every one of them will hope it leads to the return of the Open Championship after even longer - Max Faulkner won that 61 years ago - and Donaldson will join them in that wish.

The former amateur star has suffered from Pars disease, but careful management of it has finally enabled him to fulfil his dream.

His brilliant closing 66 was only one off the low round of the week and a 25-foot putt on the last enabled him to reach 18 under par.

“I’m buzzing,” he said. “And I’m so happy to have won on this course - I don’t think we have played a better one on the European Tour.”

Joint second were England’s Anthony Wall, Spaniard Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti, but it was Swede Mikael Lundberg who threatened most to grab the title away from Donaldson.

From six back he covered the first 10 holes in a spectacular eight under and led by two. But bogeys at the 16th and 18th meant he eventually finished joint fifth.