David Frost won a sentimental second Mercedes-Benz - Vodacom South African Open title at Stellenbosch Golf Club.
Starting the final round four shots off the pace, Frost shot a brilliant 68 to move into a share of the lead and when Sven Strüver found water with his second shot on the last, the South African was crowned champion.
It was a fitting result for the man who grew up down the road in Paarl and learnt his golf on the Stellenbosc h course, but a sad one for Strüver who played outstandingly for four days until the last hole.
"I hit the perfect drive down the middle of the fairway but the ball finished in a divot and there was nothing I could do," said a disappointed Strüver afterwards. "I would hit the same club, and the same shot if I had it again; you just have to hope for some luck when you are in that situation."
Strüver's misfortune produced a double bogey and dropped him from a share of the lead at five-under par back to fourth place at three under leaving India's Jeev Milkha Singh and American Scott Dunlap to share second place on four-under par for the tournament. Singh moves into second place behind Ernie Els in the Volvo Order of Merit following his third-place finish in last week’s Alfred Dunhill South African PGA Championship.
On a day when the avarage score was 74, Frost's round was especially impressive with neither the heat nor the unpredictable, gusting wind able to shake his rhythm or break his concentration.
He birdied the second hole and the par-three seventh to turn in two-under par 33 but, with the firm greens making accurate approach shots more difficult as the afternoon heat increased, it was the quality of his
scrambling, and par-saving, that set him apart from the field.
"On the 12th I hit a two-iron into the water but I chipped from 50 yards to two feet and made the putt for par. Then my big test was the bunker shot at the last which, if you don't mind me saying, was a great shot!" Frost said.
The daunting par-four 10th, playing into the wind, cost Frost his only shot of the day but he struck back with further birdies at the par-three 13th and finally, with a huge putt on the 17th.
He said: "I had a vision, right from the start of the day, of the crowd sitting in the stands around the 18th green watching me winning the tournament. I knew it would be very emotional, being my home course, but I couldn't let the local support distract me.
"Normally I look at the crowds to help me relax but this week I kept seeing old friends who I haven't seen for five or ten years. People were calling out to me but I just had to keep looking at my feet as I walked because I couldn't talk to everyone! I just wish I could repay all those people now and thank them for their support."
After opening with two rounds of 67 Strüver moved to nine-under after a birdie on the first hole of the third round, opening a five-shot lead. But he stumbled over the back nine to finish with a 73 and, having produced nine successive pars over the outward nine of the final round, he had consecutive bogeys on the 11th and 12th before the double bogey at the last to return a 74.
Defending champion Ernie Els, starting alongside Frost four shots behind Strüver at two under, stumbled before he could mount a charge with dropped shots at the third and fourth.
He fought back with birdies at the fifth and 13th but, with at least two more birdies required from the last three holes, he dropped at the 16th and had to settle for a three-way share of sixth place alongside Denmark's Thomas Björn and American Bob May. Since winning the first of his three SA Opens in 1992, Els has not placed outside the top ten in eight consecutive national Opens.
For Frost it was Mercedes-Benz-Vodacom South African Open victory number two after triumphing at Royal Johannesburg in 1986. "My first memories of golf are from this course. My Dad used to sit at the bar here after I'd caddied for him then I used to go and play holes seven, eight and nine. He used to have a few beers so I got to know those holes pretty well!"