EAST LONDON, South Africa – South African Charl Schwartzel claimed victory at the Africa Open by one shot from compatriot Thomas Aiken despite bogeying the final hole Sunday.
“It was not the ideal tee shot when I pushed it right on 18, but I said to my caddie that we should take five and leave Thomas with a birdie to force a playoff,” Schwartzel said.
He finished on 20-under par with a four-round total of 272 in the $1.44 million tournament at the East London Golf Club, co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and the European Tour.
There was a brief moment when Schwartzel thought Aiken had birdied 17 to draw level, but the big scoreboard had it wrong for about three minutes as the eventual champion looked on anxiously from the score-recorder's booth.
It was Schwartzel's fourth European Tour win after a run of good form that finally produced a victory.
“I really just needed a little bit of luck,” he said. “I have been playing well, and when I shot 70 on Friday, I had no luck at all. Who knows what that round could have been.”
Aiken, who led going into the final round with Trevor Fisher Jr., was left regretting a double-bogey six on the innocuous-looking 331-yard fifth hole.
That let Schwartzel open up a lead he never relinquished. He had a three-stroke advantage on the 16th and then had to wait things out as Aiken made a birdie on 15 to close things to two down the stretch.
In the end, Aiken had a 15-footer for birdie, and, although he got it close, he was unable to force the playoff.
Behind Aiken, Jbe' Kruger and Fisher shared third on 18-under, with Australia's Rick Kulacz, England's James Morrison and South African Chris Swanepoel in fifth, one shot further back.
The best round of the day belonged to Branden Grace of South Africa, who made a valiant charge at the lead with a 7-under 66 which included three eagles.
“I just couldn’t keep the bogeys and other rubbish off my card,” he said after he finished on 16-under.
He ended up sharing eighth with fellow South Africans James Kingston and Michiel Bothma, Swede Pelle Edberg and England's Miles Tunnicliff.