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Saturday 18 November 2017

Khan makes his dream reality

Win at Wentworth comes six months after losing card

Six months after his worst-ever feeling in golf, England's Simon Khan woke up today to discover his best-ever moment was not just a dream.

From the depths of 471st in the world, the 37-year-old from Essex really did win the European Tour's flagship BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth yesterday. On his wife Lesley's 42nd birthday -- all he has bought so far is a card -- Khan really beat five of the game's top 10 and really did win more than €750,000.

For a player who had only one top-10 finish all last season and had to make a 10th trip to the Tour qualifying school, it was truly life-changing stuff.

"I love the Tour so much and to lose your card ... that was the worst I've ever felt," said Khan, who has strong Irish connections as his late father was born and brought up in Dublin, while his uncle Frank was an Irish Independent journalist. "This has got to be the best, without a doubt."

Nobody in the history of the event had ever won from seven behind with a round to go but, while overnight leader Chris Wood stumbled to a 77, as did his nearest challenger Robert Karlsson, Khan shot a four-under-par 67.

A closing 20-foot birdie putt, which hung on the back edge before dropping, took him one ahead of Swede Fredrik Andersson Hed but left him level with Luke Donald.

The Ryder Cup star still had the two closing par fives to come, but driving into the trees on the first of them led to a double-bogey seven and, needing an eagle to tie on the controversial new 18th, his pitch just failed to make it to the hole before spinning back.

As well as the money, Khan now has a five-year Tour exemption and a place in the next three Open Championships.

But Khan had to decide last night whether to play in today's 36-hole US Open qualifier at Walton Heath.

He was undecided as he left Wentworth, but knew the chance to play the event at Pebble Beach might not come along again in his career.

"I think if you stop dreaming of going there and winning those events you might as well stop really."

He is suddenly in contention for a Ryder Cup debut too, of course. Khan won the Wales Open at Celtic Manor -- this October's cup venue, although not the exact same course -- in 2004 and was runner-up in the 2006 PGA. Both were cup years and he added: "You can't not think about it."

From 153rd on this year's money list -- only the top 115 keep their cards, so that was becoming a worry again -- he is suddenly up to seventh. Living proof that in golf it takes only one week to make it a great year.

Pádraig Harrington had been expected to feature, starting the final day five shots off the pace. However, he failed to challenge for the title. He did equal his best finish at this championship, a share of sixth with Wood earning him €126,450, two rounds of one-over-par 72 at the weekend certainly did not live up to the promise of the 67 which propelled him right into the mix last Friday.

Graeme McDowell joined Aussies Robert Allenby and Adam Scott among the 14 players who received exemptions to play in the US Open in June.

McDowell tied for 28th yesterday but he didn't learn of the exemption until the finish of the Byron Nelson Champion-ship in Texas later in the day.

The rest of the Irish also finished well down the field: Damien McGrane (+1), Paul McGinley (+2), Gareth Maybin (+3), Rory McIlroy (+5), Peter Lawrie (+6) and Shane Lowry (+8).

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