Andrew McArthur wins marathon play-off

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ANDREW McArthur boosted his confidence, as well as his bank account, after outlasting Kenneth Ferrie in a marathon play-off to win the inaugural Paul Lawrie Invitational, the pair being left to fight it out for the title after finishing a shot ahead of the tournament host.

After both had closed with 67s for an 11-under-par total of 199, McArthur finally sealed victory at the sixth extra hole with a birdie, the 32-year-old winning a 4,000 first prize as well as a watch worth 3,000 for the lowest round of the week - his course-record 62 in the second round.

"A win like this is great for my confidence and also a reprieve for my bank account," admitted McArthur, who won on the Challenge Tour in 2008 but lost his European Tour card last season and had won just 3,690 in five events back on the second tier so far this year.

Locked together at the start, former European Open champion Ferrie, the pre-tournament favourite along with Lawrie, made the first slip on a tricky day for scoring as he dropped a shot at the second.

Both players then birdied the two long holes going out - the third and sixth - and, though Ferrie moved level again with a birdie at the eighth, it wasn't for long as McArthur replied in style with an eagle-two at the driveable ninth.

The Scot still held a two-shot cushion with three holes to play, having made an outrageous birdie at the 15th after his tee shot came back off a tree into the middle of the fairway, but a McArthur bogey at the 16th followed by a birdie from Ferrie at the next took them into the play-off.

After a straightforward half at the first time of asking, Ferrie stayed alive with a chip and putt for par next time, McArthur then got up and down from a bunker at the third visit before Ferrie did exactly the same at the fourth attempt to separate them, McArthur having seen his ten-foot birdie attempt to win come up agonisingly short.

After one more attempt to get a winner at the 18th - the Scot came close again with a putt that just drifted wide of the hole - the pair moved to the first instead and the change paid off for McArthur as he rolled in a 12-footer for the title.

Lawrie, who closed with a second successive 65 to finish three shots ahead of Peterhead's Ross Cameron in fourth, was delighted to have come so close to getting into the play-off when he had so much on his mind as the host this week.

"Wednesday was hard as my brain was a bit scattered - I wasn't in tournament mode," admitted the former Open champion. "But I played really solid in the last two days and I'm feeling better about my game than I did after struggling at Wentworth and Wales."

Graeme Brown, playing in the penultimate group with Lawrie and Greig Hutcheon, opened with a birdie at the par-3 first only to then have the wind taken out of his sails by a four-putt bogey at the third, the Montrose man signing for a 70 and a share of seventh on 206.

That was one behind Mark Kerr, one of the three co-leaders overnight, who bowed out of the title reckoning early on by dropping three shots in the opening two holes but battled bravely for a 73.

The only slight disappointment for him was that he just missed out on the spot up for grabs in next week's Scottish Hydro Challenge as that was only on offer to someone in the top three. McArthur was already in the Spey Valley field while both Lawrie and Ferrie are off to Germany for the BMW International.

Malcolm Issacs, a 24-year-old trainee at Nairn Dunbar, was on course to snatch that expensive watch off McArthur as he covered his first 14 holes in eight-under but dropped two shots at the 15th, finding a ditch short of the green with his approach from the semi-rough. Nevertheless, a 64 was his best score in the paid ranks "by far" and catapulted him into a share of fifth position with a five-under total of 205.

Playing partner David Law also signed off with a sub-par effort, a 67, and hardly had time to catch his breath before jumping in his car to head down to Ayrshire for today's opening two rounds in the Tennant Cup at Glasgow Gailes. He's then off to Somerset on Tuesday to prepare for next week's Brabazon Trophy. "It was good to be in with the pros - it's been a good experience for me," said the 20-year-old.

Heather MacRae was not too disheartened despite signing off with a 76 - her worst score of the week - to finish last of the 35 qualifiers for the final round. "This has given me a lot of confidence - it's made me realise what I'm capable of," said the 27-year-old who then headed off on a hen weekend in Newcastle before starting a new job at Gleneagles on Tuesday.

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