Tim Clark stormed home with nine birdies to become only the third South African to win the 93rd Australian Open in a sudden-death playoff at Royal Sydney yesterday.
The 42nd-ranked golfer reeled off a closing five-under 67 to squeeze into a playoff with Australian Mathew Goggin after New Zealander David Smail blew a three-stroke lead with four holes to play.
Goggin three-putted the first sudden-death hole, handing the diminutive South African his first win since the 2005 Scottish Open at Loch Lomond.
Clark, who turns 33 on Wednesday, joins Gary Player and Bobby Locke as the only South Africans to win the Australian Open’s Stonehaven Cup.
Clark claimed victory with a gutsy sand-save on the first extra hole, forcing Goggin to make a testing 2m putt to stay alive.
Goggin’s par-saving effort was unsuccessful and he was forced to settle for the runner-up spot for a second week after finishing behind Geoff Ogilvy in the previous weekend’s Australian PGA in Coolum.
“I didn’t even consider there would be a playoff until about 30 minutes after I finished,” Clark said. “I was watching the golf on TV having a pie and chips, believe it or not, and thought I better get down there and warm up [for a playoff]. It’s obviously a bonus to get into the playoff and I feel bad for David [Smail] the way he finished. Then in the playoff I won it like that too. It’s tough to win like that, but at the end of the day, I’m the winner.”
■ CAMBODIAN OPEN
AFP, SIEM REAP, Cambodia
Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee made it two straight wins in a row on the Asian Tour when he claimed a comfortable victory at the Cambodian Open yesterday.
Thongchai, who welcomed the arrival of his second child nine days ago, duly dedicated both victories to his newborn son Kittituch. The Thai produced another superb round of six-under 66 at Phokeethra Country Club for a 24-under 264 total to end his Cambodian campaign six shots ahead of closest rival Lam Chih Bing of Singapore.
Lam produced the best finish of his career so far, signing off with a 65 for a 270 total to take second place ahead of Thailand’s Chawalit Plaphol, two shots back on 272. Welsh rookie Rhys Davies and Anthony Kang of the US took a share of fourth place when they returned with matching 274s.
■ DUNHILL CHAMPIONSHIP
AFP, MALELANE, South Africa
South Africa’s Thomas Aiken fired a course record 61 to leap into the lead after the third round of the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek on Saturday.
Aiken’s 11-under round put him on 198, one stroke ahead of Len Mattiace of the US and four in front of David Lynn, Robert Rock, Richard Sterne and Oskar Henningsson at the European Tour event. It also put him in line for the biggest payday of his career.
He finished 131st on the Order of Merit and only qualified for the co-sanctioned event because of his ranking on the South African Sunshine Tour. Aiken took advantage of near-perfect scoring conditions, with rain-softened greens and true putting surfaces, holing a succession of long putts as he made nine birdies and an eagle at the par-five 18th.
“It was a fantastic day,” said Aiken, 25, who needed only 23 putts.
■ M LYNCH SHOOTOUT
AFP, NAPLES, Florida
Scott Hoch and Kenny Perry came out firing to seize the lead on Saturday in the second round of the Merrill Lynch Shootout.
Hoch and Perry combined for a blistering 12-under 60 to take a four-shot lead over US Ryder Cup heroes Boo Weekley and J.B. Holmes at the unofficial event.