Els wins the 100th South African Open

12/19/2010 4:12:32 PM
Ernie Els   (Getty Images)
Ernie Els (Getty Images)

Ernie Els held off the challenge of Retief Goosen to capture the South African Open Championship for the fifth time in his career on a fascinating final day in Durban.

In the 100th staging of the event, it was fitting that Els, who shot a final round six under par 66, edged out fellow former champion Goosen by a shot, as arguably the two greatest South African golfers of the modern era went toe-to-toe.

Two rounds were played at the Durban Country Club after rain earlier in the week had washed out almost the entire first day, while further showers in the early hours of this morning delayed play and also made the par three fourth green unplayable.

It meant that instead of 36 holes, only 34 were played, with all players given a nominal par to avoid confusion.

And three-time Major winner Els, who fired a 67 earlier in the day, followed it up with another excellent display as he carded five birdies, an eagle and a bogey to end on 25 under overall.

He by no means cruised to victory, though, as Goosen rallied late on with four birdies in his last five holes.

But the charge proved too late for the championship winner from 1995 and 2005, and despite emulating Els' 66, he fell just short on 24 under overall.

Another Major winner, Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen, ended four stokes further back after a 66 in the final round, while rising youngster Charl Schwartzel (67) finished on 18 under to make it a top four for South Africa.

Robert Rock was the highest placed European thanks to successive 64s that saw him end on 16 under to complete the top five at the co-sanctioned European and Sunshine Tour event.

Els, who picked up a prize of €158,500 after securing his third title of the year, said: "It was a wonderful choice to come here. This really makes the year very good now.

"Playing under a lot of pressure, with really good players in the field on a great golf course. It was a great championship."

The title added to his previous ones in 1992, 1996, 1998 and 2006 and was made even more special considering it came at the centenary of the tournament.

Els, 41, described playing two rounds in a day during such a big competition as an "incredible feeling".

He continued: "I've been playing the game for quite some time, 20 years now as a professional player and I've never had a day like that.

"I had a two shot lead at the start of the day and then after five holes I was three behind and then I was one up again after 18 holes. So it was just an incredible day."

He also felt that securing an eagle from 15 feet on the par five 14th hole was crucial in helping him edge out Goosen - a man whose two titles were won with Els as his main final round rival.

He added: "Obviously 14 was a big putt, making eagle there. I knew Retief was going to come, but I never thought he was going to do it at 16 and then he had a great finish.

"I think right from the start (it's going to be a head-to-head). I knew Retief was going to be the guy I had to beat.

"Obviously Louis and Charl were there, but Retief was the main one.

"He's beaten me coming down the stretch quite a few times, so I really wanted to play well. It was really important. He made it really tough for me.”

French Rookie Romain Wattel (68) ended on 16 under overall, along with Rock, while fellow Frenchman Victor Riu (69) and Alexander Cejka (68) were a further shot back.

The top 10 was completed by Robert Dinwiddie (68) from England, Dane Thorbjorn Olesen (69) and South African Tim Clark (69) - all tied on 14 under.