Mathias Grönberg captured his third victory on the European Tour when he closed with a five under par 67 to win the Mercedes-Benz South African Open Championship at Randpark Club with a 14 under par total of 274.
The 29 year old Swede triumphed as darkness fell over Johannesburg thanks to a two-putt birdie four on the final hole, after an electrical storm had delayed play for two and three quarter hours during the afternoon.
In a frantic finish – both to beat the fading light and also in a golfing sense – the lead changed hands several times under Grönberg’s controlled five wood at the last reached the surface and sealed his victory.
Until that moment, it had appeared that a play-off was the most likely outcome. Ricardo Gonzalez of Argentina was the first to finish on 13 under following a dynamic climax in which he made two two's and a birdie in the last four holes.
His five foot putt for eagle would have elevated him to 14 under par, but he allowed too much break and the ball slipped past the cup.
Then it was the turn of Nick Price, who had never won the second oldest Open Championship in the world in his illustrious career. He holed a 99 metre sand wedge at the 11th soon after play resumed and looked a potential winner.
However a bogey at the 16th proved costly and he had to hole a magnificent 35 footer on the final green to join the young Argentine player on 275.
Grönberg then completed his round, having not made a mistake since the delay, and had to wait and watch with nervous tension as the young South African, Darren Fichardt, who led by one going into the last round, played the final hole. He needed an eagle to tie and made a brave attempt as his pitch to the last screwed back to within a couple of inches of the hole.
He tapped in to force a three-way tie for second place, while five others were on 12 under, including the new course record holder, John Mellor of Sheffield, who carded a superb nine under par 63 on Saturday.
Grönberg said: “When I won the Smurfit European Open, my wife Tara, who is American, could only watch on TV. This time it is very special that she was here to cheer me on. It’s great.
“The rain break was very convenient for me. I had made two bogeys and had to make a vital putt for a par on the seventh. Then when we started again it all happened. I birdied the eighth and ninth and made three more coming in.”
South African Wallie Coetsee had earlier set a course record for the re-designed Randpark lay-out with a seven under par 65 – later beaten by Mellor - which helped him establish a one stroke lead over the field in the first round.
The 27 year old from Tzaneen in the Northern Province birdied six out of seven holes from the eighth to move ahead of three players, the English duo of Greg Owen and Paul Eales of England and Terblanche from the host country.
Eales followed his opening 66 with a 69 while Fichardt from Pretoria tagged a 66 onto his first round 69 to move into a share of the halfway lead.
Both players extolled the virtues of family life as they claimed a one stroke advantage over the field on 135, nine under par. Eales attributed the arrival of his first child for helping him take a more relaxed attitude to his sport, while Fichardt – who lost his bachelor status only ten days ago – waxed lyrically about married life.
On the third day, Fichardt and Terblanche revelled in the baking heat of Johannesburg to set up the opportunity of winning the title and an automatic exemption onto the European Tour.
Fichardt led the championship with a 14 under par total of 202 following third round of 67 while Terblanche carded the second lowest score of the day, a seven under par 65, to be one off the pace with Eales a further stroke behind.
Terblanche’s effort was eclipsed by a magnificent 63 by Sheffield’s John Mellor, who was the final player to make the cut on level par on Friday night. He returned to Randpark Club for a 6.58am start and proceeded to compile eight birdies and a glorious eagle to trim too shots off the new record set by Coetsee on day one.