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Morocco triumph puts Hoey in mix for Ryder debut

MICHAEL HOEY joined some good company when he won the Hassan Trophy in Morocco yesterday.

Since Ryder Cup qualifying started last September, only five Europeans have won twice - world top three Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood, Spanish star Sergio Garcia and now Hoey.

The big difference between them, though, is that 33-year-old Northern Irishman is still outside the top 10 who, come August, will earn automatic places in Jose Maria Olazabal's side.

That is the price Hoey has paid for not having a single top 10 finish between his victory over McIlroy in the Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews last October and his latest success.

"I've not really been thinking about it," said the former British amateur champion when asked about his Cup prospects, "but I'm obviously in contention."

Hoey was nine behind after an opening 74, but closed with back-to-back 65s to push long-time leader Damien McGrane into second.

He is up into the world's top 75 for the first time as a result, but needs to keep pushing on to earn a debut against the Americans in September.

"You need to play well in the big events," he added.

Welshman Jamie Donaldson is still searching for his first Tour title in nearly 250 starts, but a spectacular closing 61 ought to have him thinking that it is not far away.

The course record round, which lifted Donaldson into a share of third with compatriot Phillip Price and England's Robert Coles, contained three eagles - the third of them when he sank his nine-iron approach on his final hole.

That relegated Matteo Manassero into a tie for sixth, but only a win mattered to the 18-year-old Italian - it would have given him a place in The Masters.