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England’s Paul Casey made a welcome return to the winner’s circle, capturing the Irish Open at Carton House by three shots from countryman Robert Rock and Joost Luiten of Holland.

Casey finished with an excellent 67, in testing conditions, to claim his first European Tour victory for two and a half years.

“It’s incredibly sweet,” said Casey. “It’s been a while and when that final putt went in, half of it was relief and half of it was satisfaction.”

The Englishman began the final day four behind Luiten and he started steadily with seven straight pars. The 35-year-old then threw in five birdies over the next six holes to move to the top of the leaderboard.

When he bogeyed the 15th and 16th holes, his lead was cut to just one shot and it looked as though the chasing pack might be let back in. But Casey closed the door with a magnificent eagle on the par-5 last. He found the home green in two blows then rolled in a 45-foot putt.

Overnight leader Luiten couldn’t find a spark in the final round. He didn’t make a single birdie until the final hole, and dropped shots at the 5th, 12th and 16th holes. He was round in a disappointing 74. But, having won in Austria earlier this month and recording two further strong finishes in June, he had reason to be positive.

“All in all, a good week,” he said. “Second place is always good, but if you go in the last round as the leader, you want to have more, but sometimes you can’t.”

Like Casey, there was a return to form from Robert Rock. He played some excellent golf to finish tied for second with Luiten. Rock lost a playoff to Shane Lowry in the Irish Open of 2009.

“It’s as good as I’ve done in a while,” he said.

Jose Maria Olazabal finished tied fifth, but it could have been much better for the Spaniard. The 47-year-old was tied for the lead through 10 holes after posting four birdies. But he fell away with four bogeys in the last eight.

The European Tour moves on to the Alstom Open de France this week before the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart then The Open Championship at Muirfield.

The Irish Open
Carton House GC, Maynooth, Co. Kildare, Ireland
Jun 27-30, purse €2,000,000 par 72

1   Paul Casey (Eng)      68   72   67   67   274   €333,330
T2   Joost Luiten (Ned)   67   70   66   74   277   €173,710
T2   Robert Rock (Eng)   69   66   71   71   277   €173,710

4   Pablo Larrazabal (Esp)   69   69   66   75   279   €100,000
T5   Rafa Cabrera-Bello (Esp) 69   70   70   71   280   €61,920
T5   Shane Lowry (Ire)   67   70   74   69   280   €61,920
T5   Jose Maria Olazabal (Esp) 68   69   71   72   280   €61,920
T5   Alvaro Quiros (Esp)   72   68   68   72   280   €61,920
T5   Gareth Shaw (NIR)   73   68   70   69   280   €61,920

Note: Player score in bold signifies Titleist ball usage

Where next?
PGA Tour –
Bill Haas wins AT&T National