Els fends off Goosen for fifth South African Open title|
Durban, South Africa (Sports Network) - Ernie Els held off a hard-charging
Retief Goosen on Sunday to win his national championship for a fifth time at
the South African Open Championship.
Els posted a six-under 66 on Sunday, but Goosen nearly caught the three-time
major winner. Goosen birdied his last three holes and four of his last five,
but his 66 came up a stroke short.
Els took a four-shot lead thanks to a 20-foot eagle at the par-five 14th.
Goosen birdied the same hole, but Els had a seemingly insurmountable edge with
four holes to play.
Goosen rolled in an improbable 50-footer for birdie at the 16th, then nearly
holed it from the fairway at the 17th. He settled for a birdie and was only
down two with the closing hole to play.
Goosen was able to make a par at the last, but Els two-putted from close
range to secure the title, his third worldwide in the calendar year.
"This makes the year really good now," said Els in a television interview. "It
was a wonderful choice to come. For me, personally, it was a great
Els finished at 25-under 263 to polish off a strange week weather-wise at
Durban Country Club.
Most of Thursday's first-round action was washed out due to inclement weather.
The first round was played on Friday, the second on Saturday and Sunday
featured a 36-hole final.
On Sunday, a heavy storm, which delayed the start of the third round for an
hour, left the par-three fourth unplayable. The decision was made to give
every golfer a par on the hole.
So Sunday's much-anticipated 36-hole marathon turned into a 34-hole marathon.
The champion and runner-up weren't the only strong showings for South African
Louis Oosthuizen, the British Open champion, shot a 66 in Sunday's final round
and took third at 21-under 267. Charl Schwartzel, a runner-up last week at the
Alfred Dunhill Championship, managed a five-under 67 and came in fourth at
But Sunday's final round came down to a battle of South Africa's two most
successful players of this generation.
Els began round four with a one-shot cushion, and a birdie at the third,
coupled with a Goosen bogey, gave The Big Easy a three-stroke advantage. Els
got four clear with a birdie at six, but Goosen chipped into the lead.
Goosen birdied the seventh, then the par-five eighth became a crucial swing
hole. Els drove into the woods and ultimately pulled a short par putt. His
bogey along with Goosen's five-foot birdie trimmed Els' margin to a single
Els padded the lead with a nine-foot birdie putt at No. 9. Both players
birdied the par-five 10th, but Els moved three ahead thanks to a 12-foot
birdie putt at the 12th.
After his eagle, it looked like Els would cruise, but Goosen fought hard.
"I knew he was going to be my guy," Els said of Goosen in a televised
interview. "I really wanted to play well today. He made it very tough coming
Robert Rock (67) and Romain Wattel (68) shared fifth place at 16-under 272.
First-round co-leader Alex Cejka (68) and Victor Riu (69) tied for seventh at
NOTES: This was Els' 24th European Tour victory...Els won the WGC-CA
Championship and the Arnold Palmer Invitational in the U.S...The next European
Tour event is the Africa Open on January 6, where Schwartzel will be on hand
to defend his title.
12/19 12:39:40 ET