Monday, 29 January 2001
A magnificent 20 foot putt on the final green at East London Golf Club saw Zimbabwe’s Mark McNulty capture the Mercedes-Benz South African Open and at the same time enter the annals of European Tour history.

McNulty's victory, the 16th European Tour title of his career, saw him become the third oldest champion on the European Tour behind the legendary duo of Neil Coles and Christy O'Connor.

Coles was 48 years and 14 days old when he won the 1982 Sanyo Open while O'Connor was 47 years and 187 days old when he took the 1972 Carroll's International tournament. McNulty's victory came when he was 47 years and 95 days old.

On a thrilling final day, McNulty, whose last European Tour victory came in the 1996 Volvo Masters, fired a final round 71 for an eight under par total of 280, one clear of England's Justin Rose and two clear of Denmark's Thomas Björn and South African Roger Wessels. It was the second time McNulty has won the title, the second oldest championship in golf, following his victory in 1987 and earned him 169,283 euro (£107,948).

For the second week running Rose finished in second place, carding a final round 72 for a seven under total of 281, his birdie putt on the last to tie McNulty narrowly missing on the right.

Rose has now earned 212,401 euro (£135,443) to ensure that a fourth visit to the European Tour Qualifying School Finals will not be neccessary.

McNulty won his first European Tour title in 1979, the year before Rose was born, and over the past 20 years has been one of the game’s most consistent winners, collecting over 30 international victories in addition to his 16 on the European Tour. Indeed, the 47 year old is the most prolific non-European money winner on the Tour.

Playing the last, McNulty held a slender one stroke lead but, after finding the right rough with his tee shot, came up short of the putting surface with his second. Rose meanwhile hit the perfect drive and wedge to 15 feet to keep the pressure on.

McNulty misjudged his chip and watched it shoot past the hole. But McNulty showed why he has remained at the top of the game for so long by confidently holing the par putt. Rose still had a chance to take to contest into extra holes but was unable to match McNulty's heroics.

Rose maintained the pressure on McNulty right to the end despite a double bogey on the tenth, where he three putted, and then dropping another shot on the 12th. The 20 year old bounced back to keep himself in the hunt for a first European Tour title with birdies on the 13th and 15th, but once again he was defeated by the narrowest of margins.

South African Roger Wessels, joint leader with McNulty until the 16th, dropped two shots in the last three holes to finish in a tie for third with Björn.

Hennie Otto, leader for the first three days after rounds of 65, 70 and 71, lost ground with a 77 in the final round to share fifth place with Sweden’s Mikael Lundberg while England’s Malcolm Mackenzie was tied for seventh after setting a course-record 63, moving up from joint 63rd.

"I'm absolutely delighted, it's fantastic," said an emotional McNulty. "I'm very proud of the win. I did not think about missing the putt on the last. I knew before my chip I would have to hole a putt and it did not matter how long it was.”

After his second runners-up finish in successive weeks Rose said: “You could not have had more contrasting conditions the last two weeks. And for my game to be there both weeks proves I have got an all-round game. I just need that bit of luck. “

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