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A Bjorn winner but Darren Clarke is born again

Thomas Bjorn ended a four-year drought on the European Tour with victory in the Estoril Open de Portugal yesterday.

It was his first title since pipping his great friend Darren Clarke to the Irish Open in 2006 — and ironically Clarke showed a welcome return to form himself over the weekend.

He closed with a 66 after second and third rounds of 67 and 68.

The Dungannon man was still

11 shots behind the Dane, finishing in a share of sixth place.

This stirring performance was worth a lot more to the 41-year-old Ryder Cup veteran than the €32,500 cheque he pocketed.

Clarke's first top-10 finish since the Avantha Masters in February and only his second of the season should relieve the intense frustration he'd been feeling as a series of mid-table finishes did little justice to the overall quality of his ball-striking.

Bjorn saw off a fine challenge from Richard Green with a closing 68 for a 23 under par aggregate total of 265.

Australian left-hander Green had nibbled away at the two-time Ryder Cup winner's three-shot overnight lead from the outset.

Meanwhile, it was always going to be a long shot, but Rory McIlroy was unable to force himself into contention for the St Jude Classic last night.

The Ulsterman, who had hoped to slug it out for the title in preparation for this week’s US Open at Pebble Beach, had to settle for a one over closing round of 71 at TPC Southwind, which left him trailing leader Lee Westwood by nine shots as he finished.

But the real damage had been done in Saturday’s third round when he got himself within three of the lead at one stage, but fell away with three dropped shots on the back nine for a two over round of 72.

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