Argentina’s Ariel Canete captured his maiden European Tour title in impressive fashion, closing with three birdies in the final four holes to become the inaugural winner of the Joburg Open. The 31 year old former Challenge Tour graduate closed with a round of 67 over the East Course at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club for a total of 19 under par 266, two strokes clear of South African Andrew McLardy in second place.
On lifting the winner's trophy Canete completed another success story for The European Tour and its policy of giving its members as many playing opportunities as possible. Having finished 146th on the Order of Merit in 2006 and then failing to regain his full playing privileges when he finished 53rd at the Qualifying School in San Roque in November, Canete started the new season with two appearances on the Challenge Tour.
Then came along the Joburg Open and its 200 strong field, which gave many of the less established European Tour players a valuable start. Opportunity knocked and the Argentine answered the call in commanding fashion, producing four rounds in the 60s to seal the biggest win of his career and, more crucially, earn a three year exemption to The European Tour International Schedule.
"I was in Argentina and it was the holidays. My category has not been so good and I was sitting there doing nothing. I thought to myself let’s go to South Africa and give it a try, you never know. Now I am very, very happy," said Canete.
"I putted really well all week. The lines always seemed very clear in my mind while my South African caddie helped a lot with club selection, as the ball travels farther here than it does at home in Argentina."
Canete, who led by one stroke going into the fourth round, bogeyed the par three second hole but then picked up two birdies on the front nine and three coming in to finish on 19 under par.
He sealed his victory with a brilliant up-and-down from a greenside bunker for birdie on the 18th, which gave him a two stroke cushion over McLardy, who equaled his best performance on The European Tour International Schedule following his runner-up spot in Madeira in 2005.
Another South African, Hennie Otto, was alone in third place on 16 under par after shooting a 67. Compatriot Alex Haindl briefly threatened the leaders, before bogeys on the 14th and 17th saw him finish on 13 under, along with countryman Mark Murless.
Earlier in the day Haindl had been one of the biggest movers when 36 players returned to complete their third rounds after Saturday’s play was terminated in the early afternoon by lightning and thunderstorms.
The 23 year old South African, who is 19th on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit, put himself into contention with a 66 while Canete and McLardy both completed 65s to go into the final round first and second on the leaderboard, which was exactly where they would finish.