South African Charl Schwartzel completed his fantastic finish to 2012 with an astonishing 12-stroke victory on home soil at the Alfred Dunhill Championship yesterday.
The third biggest winning margin in European Tour history was achieved at Leopard Creek a week after last year’s US Masters champion won in Thailand by 11 shots.
Only Tiger Woods and Ernie Els, who won the 2000 US Open and 2005 Asian Open by 15 and 13 respectively, have left the best of the rest trailing so far behind in the circuit’s 40-year history.
Schwartzel, 10 clear with a round to play, added a three-under-par 69 either side of a two-hour thunderstorm delay to take his eighth Tour title – five of them in South Africa – with a 24-under-par total.
In the Thailand Championship he was 25 under, and for the past five weeks – they started with finishes of fifth, third and second – he is a staggering 84 under.
France’s Gregory Bourdy, his closest challenger for virtually the entire weekend, took a double-bogey seven on the final hole and that elevated Swede Kristoffer Broberg, four times a winner on the Challenge Tour last season, into second place.
Bourdy shared third with Scotland’s Scott Jamieson, who last Sunday captured the Nelson Mandela Championship in Durban, defending champion Garth Mulroy and England’s Andy Sullivan a month after he came through the Tour qualifying school.
Schwartzel also continued a remarkable record at the course on the border of the Kruger National Park. He won his first Tour title there in 2004 and has had four runner-up finishes.
“It’s always been a special place for me,” the 28-year-old said. “This is where I can almost say my career started and it’s always stayed close to my heart.
“It’s nice to have continued my form from last week. I was saying a month and a half ago it’s been a pretty disappointing year.
“Slowly and surely I started to swing the club a lot better, back to how I did when I won The Masters, and I actually got excited to play again. It started at the SA Open and from there got better and better. It’s been a pretty good year now!”
Fellow countryman George Coetzee’s best-of-the-day 65 lifted him into joint 10th place and came after results elsewhere had guaranteed he stayed in the world’s top 50 and earned himself a Masters debut next April.
Also qualifying by the same route for a first trip to Augusta are Welshman Jamie Donaldson, Belgian Ryder Cup star Nicolas Colsaerts, South African Branden Grace and Thorbjorn Olesen.
Sheffield’s Danny Willett was the best-placed Yorkshireman after rounds of 70 73 67 72 left him on 282 – 16 shots behind Schwartzel.
Harrogate’s John Parry (72 70 67 76) was three shots further adrift on 285, a shot ahead of Hull’s Richard Finch (70 68 78 70).
Rounds of 73 71 75 74 saw Sheffield’s Neil Cheetham complete the quartet of county players.
Colsaerts misses out as Asia lift Royal Trophy
Jose Maria Olazabal’s Europe lost the Royal Trophy to Asia after a sudden death play-off in Brunei yesterday.
South Korean KT Kim sank an eight-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole and then saw Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts miss from five after the teams had tied 8-8.
Under Ryder Cup rules Europe would have retained the trophy as holders, but in this competition four players go out on the course again in a fourball and it was Kim and YE Yang against Colsaerts and Francesco Molinari.
The victory looked unlikely when Asia lost the four opening foursomes by three points, but they were only one behind going into the final day singles.
Colsaerts and Henrik Stenson both won on the final green and Molinari’s brother Edoardo came back from three down with five to play to halve with Wu Ashun.
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano birdied the last to share the spoils with Kim, but wins for Yoshinori Fujimoto over Marcel Siem, Jeev Milkha Singh over Miguel Angel Jimenez and Yang over Molinari set up the shoot-out.
Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Iskandar Johor Open in Malaysia by three shots after he and American runner-up Jonathan Moore both closed with 11-under-par rounds of 61.
The event was cut to 54 holes because of storm interruptions and there was a further delay as Garcia entered the closing stretch.
However, he returned to take the title with an 18-under total of 198.
Home golfer Daniel Popovic completed his first professional victory after completing a four-shot triumph at the Australian PGA Championship on what was a dramatic final day at the Palmer Coolum Resort.
Popovic began the round two shots ahead and increased his lead after an early birdie before a double bogey on the par three eighth saw him slip a shot behind Rod Pampling.
A birdie on the par five 12th brought him to within a shot of the leader, but Pampling, who began the day with six straight birdies faltered with consecutive bogeysand Popvic claimed the $225,000 winners cheque.