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Sunday, 16 January 2011
Charl Schwartzel  (Getty Images)
Charl Schwartzel (Getty Images)

South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel ground out a four shot win to successfully defend his Joburg Open title.

The World Number 32 was never at his best from tee to green in his final round 67, but some remarkable up-and-downs helped him finish 19 under par, four ahead of compatriot Garth Mulroy.

Another South African, Thomas Aiken, saw his challenge for a maiden European Tour title fade on the back nine as he finished third on 14 under, with England’s Jamie Elson a shot further back in fourth.

Jean-Baptiste Gonnet from France finished with a one over 72 - a 12 under total - while Scott Jamieson from Scotland completed his week a further shot back on 11 under.

The 26 year old, whose previous scores this week have been 68, an immaculate 61 and 69, hit just one fairway on the back nine but still did enough to clinch a sixth European Tour title with a final total of 265, 19 under.

Tied for the lead overnight with Aiken and Mulroy, Schwartzel quickly raced two shots clear on Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club’s East Course with birdies at the first and third.

But he found trouble on the fourth, failing to get up-and-down from damp greenside rough and bogeying in wet conditions.

Mulroy and Aiken – both looking for a maiden European Tour title in the event co-sanctioned with the Sunshine Tour – both parred their first four holes to remain one back.

Aiken drew level at the par three sixth with a magnificent tee shot to within five feet, but Schwartzel was back in front when he gained a shot at the par five next.

Schwartzel produced a string of outrageous up-and-downs to remain at 17 under, and when Mulroy and Aiken both bogeyed the 11th, his lead was up to two.

While Schwartzel’s radar from both the tee and the fairway seemed to have gone awry, there was nothing wrong with his short game and he chipped in from the bunker at the 13th to go to 18 under.

Neither Aiken nor Mulroy converted their birdie putts, leaving Schwartzel three clear with five to play.

And having once again driven into trouble at the par five last, Schwartzel produced a magnificent third that almost spun in to set up a closing birdie that left him as the toast of Johannesburg on a day that began with grey skies, followed by rain and then saw him playing his closing holes under bright sunshine.

“Thomas and Garth probably outplayed me on the back nine by quite a bit, but I just managed to get the ball in the hole," he said afterwards.

"For me I didn't really play well on those last nine holes, but I just kept telling myself 'you've got a good short game and you can do it' and my putting along with the short game came to the rescue.

"It sounds easy, but I've been working really hard on my pitch shots, bunker play and chipping and it helped me when I needed it most today."

Schwartzel, who became only the third South African after Ernie Els and Trevor Immelman to successfully defend a European Tour title, admitted it was the front nine holes that won him the tournament, although a bogey on the ninth did give his challengers hope.

The Vereeniging-based golfer added: "I got off to an absolutely perfect start today, I got my nose ahead.

"Coming down the ninth, I hit it slightly too hard and it went over the back. It was a bad bogey for me and things started getting a bit shaky for me.

"I had to really dig deep there on the back nine and managed to make a score. I'm really pleased that all my hard work has paid off."

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1SCHWARTZEL, CharlRSA18-19
2MULROY, GarthRSA18-15
3AIKEN, ThomasRSA18-14
4ELSON, JamieENG18-13
5GONNET, Jean-BaptisteFRA18-12
6JAMIESON, ScottSCO18-11
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