Marcel Siem claimed his maiden victory on The European Tour International Schedule when he ended a tense afternoon at Houghton Golf Club with victory in the dunhill championship, defeating Frenchmen Gregory Havret and Raphaël Jacquelin in a sudden-death play-off.
Last year Mark Foster claimed the title from a six-man play-off but this time only three players were involved after another afternoon of low scoring at the Johannesburg course saw the trio all end 72 holes on 22 under par 266, before Siem claimed glory with a birdie four on the third trip down the 531 yard 18th .
Siem became the second German to win the dunhill championship title, after Sven Strüver in 1996 and his success also represented the fifth consecutive year that the tournament has presented a first time winner, Siem following in the footsteps of Anthony Wall, Adam Scott, Justin Rose and Foster.
“Obviously I am delighted to win, it is unbelievable,” said Siem, who posted a final round 66. “I knew it was the best chance I had had to win my first tournament being in sudden-death and I just tried to be positive over every shot.
“I have 15 friends sitting in my home in Germany right now watching the television and I am sure they will all be going crazy with champagne. It would be nice to be there with them but I’m sure I will get the chance soon. One of the other benefits of the win is that I am now able to go and play next week in the Johnnie Walker Classic which will be fantastic.”
The German had two good opportunities to win the title in extra time before eventually claiming the €114,699 (£79,000) first prize which moved him to second on the Volvo Order of Merit behind the winner of last week’s South African Airways Open, Trevor Immelman.
At the first play-off hole, a superbly struck four iron left him a six footer for a winning eagle three but the putt drifted past the edge of the cup, Havret and Jacquelin remaining in the contest when they matched his birdie four.
At the second play-off hole Havret, who had closed with a 66, fell out of the contest when he pulled his drive into the fairway bunker on the left before his attempted eight iron escape stayed left under some trees leaving a par five as the outcome.
Jacquelin found the bunker to the right of the green but splashed out and made birdie before Siem had his second chance of victory, this time a 15 foot putt for eagle after a three iron had found the heart of the green, but this time although the line was right, the pace was lacking and the ball pulled up short of the hole.
Coming down the hole moments later however Siem made it third time lucky. He found the bunker on the right of the green but his escape shot was far easier than Jacquelin’s from the bunker at the back of the green.
The Frenchman’s escape shot landed 15 feet from the pin and he two putted for par, leaving the door open for Siem. He splashed out of the sand to four feet and punched the air with delight when his putt disappeared below ground.
“It was another good week for me but I am very disappointed at the end there,” said Jacquelin, who closed with a 67, recovering manfully from a bogey at the 14th with three birdies in the closing four holes to make the play-off in the first place.
“I had a lot of chances to win but that was a big mistake there to hit it through into the back bunker. I hit a two iron, which was too much, you have to stay short and try to run it up to have a chance of birdie.
“It is really tough if you have to come from behind the hole so that was the mistake which cost me. But I tried, I did well, I did my best. It is a good performance and I will now have to wait for another time.”
Fellow countryman Havret was also left to rue the missed opportunity to add to his Italian Open title of 2001. “We all want to win but unfortunately it didn’t happen for me but there are a lot more weeks coming up and it is good form for me at the start of the year,” he said.
For a while it looked like it might be a four-man play-off, Denmark’s Søren Hansen keeping on the coat-tails of the leading trio but the winner of the 2002 Murphy’s Irish Open was unable to conjour up one other birdie which would have taken him into extra time and he had to settle for fourth place on 21 under par 267 after his 69.
“I am a bit disappointed because I knew it would come down to the last few holes,” said Hansen. “I stayed very patient and only dropped two shots all week, one on Thursday and one on Friday and at the end I was just one shot missing and it is easy to find that shot somewhere but I didn’t manage to do it, so that was disappointing.”
Maarten Lafeber of The Netherlands took fifth on 18 under par 270 with six players sharing sixth on 16 under par 272, amongst them Immelman, England’s Lee Westwood and South Africa’s James Kingston, whose whose ten under par 62 was the best round of the week, but did not tie Dean Robertson’s course record officially due to the preferred lies in operation.
Nevertheless, it was a performance to savour for the 38 year old, whose best European Tour finish to date was a second place in the 2003 Qatar Masters, and one which elevated him from a share of 41st place at the start of the day.
“That was awesome,” he said. “I made up today for what I messed up yesterday. To shoot 71 in the perfect conditions we had then was really bad. Today the difference was that I holed more crucial putts, got my tail in the air and my confidence up.”