SouthAfrica.info (Johannesburg)

South Africa: Sterne Romps to Joburg Open Victory

After struggling with injuries, Richard Sterne had to wait four years to add to his five previous European Tour victories, but when he won again in the Joburg Open he did it in style, romping to a seven-shot victory on Sunday at the Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club.

Heading into the event, which is co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour, it was clear that Sterne's game was on the up. The previous week he had finished runner-up to Stephen Gallagher in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. Before that, he tied for seventh in the Alfred Dunhill Championship.

Back in South Africa, he was on song from start to finish of the Joburg Open, winning the event with a tournament record total of 27-under-par 260.

It was the largest winning margin in the history of the event and, in relation to par, Sterne's commanding victory was the second lowest winning total in the history of the European Tour.

Exemption

Importantly, the win also secured him a place in the 2014 Volvo Golf Champions, as well as a European Tour exemption until the end of 2014.

His last European Tour win had been in the South African Open in December 2008. Thanks to back-to-back victories then, he reached a ranking of 29th in the world. Injuries, though, played havoc with his game in 2010 and 2011, when he competed in only 10 tournaments.

"I didn't think I was going to be out for so long, but six months became a year and then almost two," he told the European Tour.

"After all the hard work and the time out with injury, I did wonder whether I was ever going to win again. At one point the pain was so bad that I even wondered if I'd ever play golf again. But now I know I can.

South African influence

"The only thing that kept me going was all the other South Africans. They kept winning a lot of events and I believed that if they could do it then I could."

Sterne's first wire-to-wire victory of his career consisted of rounds of 63, 65, 68 and 64. His remarkable performance included one eagle, 26 birdies and only one dropped shot.

He previously won the Joburg Open in 2008 and follows Charl Schwartzel as a two-time winner. Schwartzel placed second this time around, ending on 20-under-par 267.

The world number 16 was returning to action after a six-week break, following victories by 11 shots in the Thailand Golf Championship and by 12 shots in the Alfred Dunhill Championship. Clearly the rest hadn't hurt his game.

Pushed Sterne hard

Trevor Fisher junior pushed Sterne hard through the first three rounds and shared the lead heading into the last 18 holes on 19-under-par 196 after rounds of 66, 62 and 68. Unfortunately for him, he struggled in the last round, posting a 73.

He began brilliantly, with an eagle three on the first hole, but three birdies could not undo the damage done by four bogeys and a double-bogey.

George Coetzee has not yet won on the European Tour, but his time is surely not that far away. He ended in a share of third with Felipe Aguilar and Ricardo Santos on 19-under 268.

LEADERBOARD

260 Richard Sterne (RSA) (-27) 63, 65, 68, 64

267 Charl Schwartzel (RSA) (-20) 68, 65, 68, 66

268 Felipe Aguilar (Chi) (-19) 67, 66, 68, 67

268 George Coetzee (RSA) (-19) 67, 64, 70, 67

268 Ricardo Santos (Por) (-19) 70, 65, 69, 64

269 Thomas Aiken (RSA) (-18) 67, 70, 66, 66

269 Trevor Fisher jnr (RSA) (-18) 66, 62, 68, 73

269 Keith Horne (RSA) (-18) 67, 66, 71, 65

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