South Africa’s Ernie Els held off a strong finish from compatriot Retief Goosen to secure a one-shot victory at the South African Open on Sunday.
Els claimed his fifth South African Open title thanks to a final round six-under-par 63 to finish on 25-under 257 at the Durban Country Club in the 100th edition of the tournament.
Goosen could not halt Els’ charge to victory as he also carded a final round six-under-par 63 to end on 24-under-par.
Els looked to have shut the door on Goosen thanks to a snaking 15-foot putt which resulted in an eagle on the 527-yard par-five 14th hole.
The eagle helped Els to a four-shot lead with four holes to play, but Goosen hit back as he birdied the 16th hole, 17th hole and 18th hole, but the 41-year-old Els held his nerve to close out the victory with four consecutive pars.
Els, ranked 12th in the world, began the final round holding a one-stroke lead over Goosen, and he was quickly out of the blocks as he picked up three birdies with just one bogey on the front nine.
Goosen fought back with three birdies in four holes from the seventh hole to the 10th.
However, Els’ eagle on the 14th proved to be the difference as he completed rounds of 65, 65, 64 and 63 to claim the title.
In all Els helped himself to five birdies and an eagle with just one bogey marring his card, while Goosen picked up seven birdies and a bogey after he struck his tee shot left into a thick bush and was forced to take a drop on the par-five third hole.
Els said his bogey on the eighth had caused a few flutters.
“I felt in control until I three-putted on eight for bogey and that threw me even though I made some good putts especially for eagle on 14,” he told a news conference.
Els may have walked off with the 158,500 euro (US$211,000) first-place prize, but he said the Goosen had made him work hard for the victory.
“I knew Retief was going to come hard, but I didn’t know he would come so hard,” he said. “We go back a long way, we played junior golf together in 1983. He is a great player and he showed it again by finishing with three birdies.”
British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen was third on 21-under-par after a final round six-under 63, while fellow South African Charl Schwartzel was fourth on 18-under.
The leading foreigners were Briton Robert Rock and Frenchman Romain Wattel, who finished tied for fifth on 16-under.
Heavy overnight rain meant organizers reduced the competition to 70 holes after the weather rendered the par-three fourth hole unplayable. The decision meant that the final two rounds were contested on a par-69 course instead of par-72.
The tournament has been plagued by bad weather with only two-and-a-half hours of play possible on the opening day, which resulted in the organizers having to schedule 36 holes for the final day.