Richard Sterne has won a European Tour event on home soil for the second consecutive week, defeating Northern Ireland’s Gareth Maybin in a playoff for the South African Open Championship.
Following victory in the Alfred Dunhill Championship last week, Sterne made it two wins in a row at the spectacular Pearl Valley Golf Estate in Paarl on the Western Cape. A birdie four at the first extra hole was enough to see off the challenge of tour rookie Maybin. It’s Sterne’s fifth European Tour title and it lifts him to third in the inaugural “Race to Dubai.”
The diminutive South African began the final round six shots adrift of overnight leader Lee Westwood but the 27-year-old came out of the blocks fast with birdies at the 2nd and 5th holes. It was on the back nine though that Sterne really turned on the style. He made birdies at the 10th and 12th holes then reeled off four solid pars before making a crucial birdie at the treacherous 17th then another at the par-5 last.
Sterne’s finishing total of -14 was enough to overtake the clubhouse lead that had been set earlier in the day by Ernie Els. “The Big Easy” fired a course record equalling 64 to finish the week on -13. He could have been one better had it not been for a three-putt on the closing hole. Els was left to rue that mistake as well as a disastrous third round 77.
Maybin played solidly but missed a number of chances towards the end of his round. He parred every hole on the back nine including the last where he missed a five-foot putt to win the title outright. When that effort horseshoed out it meant extra holes would be required to decide the title.
Maybin and Sterne headed back to the tee of the par-5 18th and the man from Belfast stood up to drive first. He put his tee-shot into the deep bunker to the right of the fairway. A cool Sterne then fired a long straight drive down the middle. Maybin could only blast out some 120 yards, then Sterne played a reasonable second shot just to the right of the putting surface. Maybin fired an excellent third to within 10 feet of the pin but, when Sterne chipped up stone-dead, the Northern Irishman had to hole his putt to keep his chances alive. It narrowly missed and Sterne was left to tap in to claim the title.
Westwood squandered his chances with a poor front nine of 39 and, despite coming on to his game on the run for home, the Englishman just couldn’t get the putter going and he finished one shot behind Sterne and Maybin in a tie with Els and another Northern Irishman, Rory McIlroy.
The 19-year-old had been in contention after round three but, seemingly, took himself out of the running by double bogeying the first two holes of his final round. But, he battled back manfully and played the remaining holes in -6. He narrowly missed an eagle chance on the final green that would have seen him join Sterne and Maybin in the playoff.
South African Open Championship
Pearl Valley Golf Estates, South Africa
Dec 18-21, purse €1,000,000, par 72
1 Richard Sterne (RSA) 72 69 67 66 274 €158,500
2 Gareth Maybin (NIR) 66 69 69 70 274 €115,000
T3 Ernie Els (RSA) 67 67 77 64 275 €53,200
T3 Rory McIlroy (NIR) 70 68 67 70 275 €53,200
T3 Lee Westwood (Eng) 66 68 68 73 275 €53,200
T6 Richard Finch (Eng) 69 70 71 66 276 €27,775
T6 Retief Goosen (RSA) 70 66 69 71 276 €27,775
T6 Branden Grace (RSA) 69 67 73 67 276 €27,775
T6 Chris Wood (Eng) 68 69 71 68 276 €27,775
10 Trevor Immelman (RSA) 69 71 70 67 277 €19,600
Note: Players in bold signifies Titleist ball usage only