JOHANNESBURG – Charl Schwartzel birdied the last hole to finish with a 67 for a four-shot win and a successful defense of his Joburg Open title on Sunday.
The South African negotiated light rain through most of the final round at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club – and overcame a mid-round wobble – to end comfortably with a 19-under 265 total.
He finished four clear of co-overnight leader and compatriot Garth Mulroy for the $270,000 first prize at the last of four events on the European Tour’s season-opening South African swing.
Mulroy shot a final-round par 71. Another South African, Thomas Aiken, who also shared the third round lead, ended third on 14 under after a 1-over 72 on Sunday.
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 qualify 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 his 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, struggled to save par on Nos. 10 and 11 and then suddenly 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.”
Scotland’s Scott Jamieson was one of the biggest climbers in the final round after a 6-under 65, the day’s best, took him to sixth on 11-under. Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke carded a 69 to pick up 28 places and end tied for 20th with a 6-under 278.
But out in front, Mulroy and Aiken couldn’t take advantage of Schwartzel’s stutter 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.
Schwartzel was in trouble when he found a damp greenside bunker with his second shot on the 420-yard (384-meter) par-4 No. 13, but he responded by rolling a 35-foot pitch from the sand into the cup for a birdie.
That spurred him to four straight pars – even if his play off the tee was still problematic – before he rifled his approach to the last within six feet, and finished in style.
“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.