Australian Adam Scott and England’s Justin Rose, born just 14 days apart, were separated by the minimum margin of one stroke in the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Houghton Golf Club, Johannesburg, with Scott claiming his maiden title at the expense of his fellow 20 year old.
In a thrilling final day, which brought first round leader Dean Robertson and six-time major champion Nick Faldo into the equation, Scott triumphed with a closing 69 for a 21 under par total of 267. In the end, a contest to establish superiority in the new order on the European Tour was decided at the 72nd hole.
Both Scott and Rose came up short of the green at the par five closing hole and chipped from rough to eight feet and four feet respectively. Whereas Rose’s birdie putt missed on the left edge, Scott knocked in his effort confidently to secure his first title on the European Tour and an exemption until the end of 2003.
Rose, the younger of the pair having been born on July 30th, 1980, as opposed to July 16th, matched Scott’s last round of 69 but proved conclusively that the talent he displayed as a teenage amateur at the 1998 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale is now bearing fruit at the ripe old age of 20.
Faldo, whose age exceeds the combined total of the first and second by three years, also showed his appetite for the fray by shooting four rounds in the sixties to share third place with Robertson on 269, 19 under par. Defending champion Anthony Wall closed with a 67 for 270 and fifth place.
Robertson had held the halfway lead after rounds of 62 – the course record and the best of his career – and 70. However Scott asserted his superiority in the third round with a flawless 65 against Rose’s 66 to move into a one shot lead on 198, 18 under par.
While Faldo battled hard on behalf of the older generation, the twentysomethings conjured up a intriguing contest of their own, with Scott taking the early initiative over the superb Houghton course in the city of Rose’s birth.
The Australian, who retained his European Tour card in just eight starts after turning professional on June 8, 2000, birdied the second, third and fifth to accelerate into a healthy lead over Rose, who bogeyed the first.
However the momentum switched around the turn as Scott, a pupil of Butch Harmon – coach to Tiger Woods and Darren Clarke – bogeyed the ninth, tenth and 13th to allow Rose, Robertson and Faldo back into the contest.
When Rose birdied the 13th, the two main protagonists were level at 19 under par. Both picked up another shot at the long 16th and reached the 18th locked together at 20 under par. Scott, from the fairway, pulled his second shot into rough just short of the green; Rose, from a bunker, came up a little further short, also in rough.
From there, Rose chipped beautifully and, for a moment, conjured up memories of his last hole chip-in at Royal Birkdale in 1998 which helped him into a share of fourth place. On this occasion, the ball trickled eight feet past. Scott pitched adeptly four feet short and Rose’s missed birdie effort sealed his fate.