JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Charl Schwartzel successfully defended his Joburg Open title on Sunday, birdieing the last hole for a 4-under 67 that gave him a four-stroke victory.
The South African finished at 19-under 265, overcoming a midround wobble at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club. Overnight co-leader and compatriot Garth Mulroy shot a 71 to finish second in the last of four events on the European Tour’s season-opening South African swing.
Thomas Aiken, also of South Africa, had a 72 and was another shot back in third. England’s Jamie Elson was another stroke back in fourth, one shot ahead of Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Gonnet, who was alone in fifth.
The top five players all qualified for next week’s $2.7 million Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.
Schwartzel, the highest ranked player in the field at No. 32, had six birdies and two bogeys in the final round on the East Course, but fired a string of wayward tee and approach shots and was forced to scramble to stay ahead.
He bogeyed Nos. 4 and 9, and struggled to save par on Nos. 10-11 before he moved three shots clear with a chip-in birdie from the bunker on No. 13 – after which his lead was never threatened.
“I got my nose ahead, but coming into nine I hit it slightly too hard and over the back,” Schwartzel said. “It was a bad bogey for me and things started to get shaky from there. I had to really dig deep out there on the back nine.
“My putting and short game came to my rescue and that’s what you need to do to win tournaments.”
Scott Jamieson of Scotland had a final-round-best 65 that moved him to sixth at 11-under. Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke had a 69 to pick up 28 places and tie for 20th at 6-under.
Out in front, Mulroy and Aiken couldn’t take advantage of Schwartzel’s missteps around the turn.
Mulroy had just one birdie and bogeyed the 11th for his worst round of the tournament. Aiken also dropped a shot at No. 11 and again at No. 17 to slip to third, still in search of his first European Tour title.
“Thomas (Aiken) and Garth (Mulroy) probably outplayed me in the back nine, but I just managed to get the ball in the hole,” Schwartzel said.