Sweden's Henrik Stenson captured the South African Open, co-sanctioned by the European and Sunshine Tours, at the Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate on Sunday, finishing three shots ahead of runner-up George Coetzee of South Africa.
It was his first title since The Players Championship in May 2009. It was also his first European Tour title since the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in February 2007. Between those two victories, he clinched the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City in December 2008.
"I've had to fight hard the last few years on the golf course and I'm very pleased to pick up this win," he said after securing victory.
"When it takes that long between wins, you wonder if there will be another. You've just got to fight hard and put the work in. In this game you need to put a lot of effort in to get something back.
"I'm very relieved to have won this one," he added.
Stenson's victory, only the second by a Swede in the South African Open after Mathias Grönberg in 2000 and just the fourth by a European, was built on his first two rounds - 66 and 65 - which left him on 13-under-par 131 at the halfway mark. That was three shots better than first round leader Merrick Bremner, who had fired a superb eight-under-par 64 to open his challenge.
DP World Tour Championship
The victory clinched a place for Stenson at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, and the win could hardly have been timed better. The top 60 players on the European Tour are invited to the tournament and the Swede had entered the South African Open in 59th place. He ended it in 45th position.
Victory also ensured another return to South Africa for Stenson as it secured him a place at the 2013 Volvo Golf Champions, which will be played at the Durban Country Club.
Coetzee put in a charge in a bid for victory and drew level with Stenson on the ninth hole after the Swede found the water, but Stenson kept his nerve to record birdies on the 10th, 16th and 17th, while Coetzee birdied the 11th and bogeyed the 15th, to go on to a three-shot victory.
'I played aggressively'
"I played aggressively coming in and made the birdies, and luckily George didn't, but George played well and will get that win sooner or later," Stenson commented.
"Every win has a special meaning. I've won some great tournaments in my career, but winning these traditional championships is always special.
"It's very humbling to get your name on a trophy that has so many great champions. Gary Player is on there 13 times, and I'm not sure I'll be able to match that," he said to laughter from the media.
Coetzee had rocketed into contention after he fired a sensational nine-under-par 63 in the third round. That effort was bettered by defending champion Hennie Otto on Sunday. After average rounds of 71, 72 and 75, he shot a stunning course record 10-under-par 62 to move up to a tie for ninth in the final standings on eight-under-par 280.
Third place was shared by South Africa's Thomas Aiken and Germany's Martin Kaymer, both of whom closed with five-under-par 67s to end on 275, one shot behind Coetzee.
Charl Schwartzel, too, carded a 67 and finished alone in fifth place on 277.
- Henrik Stenson (Swe) 66, 65, 69, 71, 271
- George Coetzee (RSA) 70, 70, 63, 71, 274
- Thomas Aiken (RSA) 73, 66, 69, 67, 275
- Martin Kaymer (Ger) 70, 70, 68, 67, 275
- Charl Schwartzel (RSA) 68, 68, 74, 67, 277
- Magnus Carlsson (Swe) 68, 67, 68, 76, 279
- Darren Fichardt (RSA) 68, 70, 68, 73, 279
- Tommy Fleetwood (Eng) 70, 69, 71, 69, 279
- Michael Jonzon (Swe) 68, 69, 71, 72, 280
- Hennie Otto (RSA) 71, 72, 75, 62, 280