2 December 2013
Charl Schwartzel clinched his third victory at Leopard Creek on Sunday, capturing the European Tour’s Alfred Dunhill Championship by four shots to rocket to the top of the Race to Dubai standings.
It was a back-to-back win for the South African ace in the Sunshine Tour co-sanctioned event after a dominating 12-shot victory in 2012. He won his first European Tour title at Leopard Creek golf course, situated near the Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga province, in December 2004.
The victory lifted Schwartzel, South Africa’s highest ranked golfer, back into the world top 20. It was his ninth win on the European Tour, with six of them coming in South Africa, half of them in the Alfred Dunhill Championship.
It also earned him places in the 2014 Volvo Golf Champions, which takes place at the Durban Country Club from 9 to 12 January, and the 2014 WGC-HSBC Champions, which tees off late next year.
Leopard Creek successes
With four runner-up finishes to go with his three titles at Leopard Creek, Schwartzel would no doubt wish he could wrap the course up and take it with him.
“This tournament has been very good to me. I’ve had lots of seconds here as well. Probably for the rest of my golfing career this will always be a special one. I don’t think that will change,” Schwartzel said after securing victory.
He began the tournament terribly, however, with a double-drop on the first hole. He also bogeyed the 17th, but seven birdies gave him a first round of four-under-par 68. He didn’t drop a shot the rest of the way, adding rounds of 68, 67 and 68 for a total of 17-under-par 271.
‘Pretty much flawless’
“I had that hiccup in the first round through 17 and the first hole, and after that [was] pretty much flawless with no bogeys from there on in,” Schwartzel told the European Tour website afterwards. “Most of the time if you play 60 holes or whatever it may be without bogey then hopefully you’ll win.”
His final round was keyed by a superb approach at the par-three fifth, which left him with a short putt for his first birdie of the final round. England’s Richard Finch tried to chase Schwartzel down, but his challenge fell apart on the 14th where he made a double-bogey after firing the ball across the green from a bunker.
It was, nonetheless, an encouraging showing from the Englishman, who claimed second on 13-under 275, ahead of his compatriots Simon Dyson and Ross Fisher, who shared third with France’s Romain Wattel on 10-under-par 278.
Second South African
Warren Abery tied for ninth and was the second South African on the leaderboard on seven-under 281, while English amateur Garrick Porteous showed he is ready for the professional ranks with a five-under-par total of 283, which was good for a share of 14th.
Denmark’s Moren Orum Madsen, who won the South African Open at Glendower the previous week, shone with a first round seven-under-par 65, but after a 71 in the second round his challenge fell apart as he carded a 79 in the third round. He ended with a 69 to finish on four-under-par 284 and a share of 16th place.
Schwartzel previously successfully defended the Joburg Open in 2010/11, which makes him one of only seven players to successfully defend two or more European Tour titles. The others include Tiger Woods, Colin Montgomerie, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam and Mark James.
The focus next shifts to Sun City where the Nedbank Golf Challenge takes place at the Gary Player Country Club from 5 to 8 December.
The tournament, now into its 32nd year, will feature a new format, with an elite 30- man field competing for a prize purse of US$6.5-million (approximately R66.2-million).
- Charl Schwartzel (SA) 271 (-17) 68, 68, 67, 68
- Richard Finch (Eng) 275 (-13) 68, 70, 67, 70
- Simon Dyson (Eng) 278 (-10) 72, 69, 70, 67
- Ross Fisher (Eng) 278 (-10) 72, 65, 72, 69
- Romain Wattel (Fra) 278 (-10) 70, 69, 68, 71
- Soren Hansen (Den) 279 (-9) 72, 65, 71, 71
- Magnus A Carlsson (Swe) 280 (-8) 70, 72, 72, 66
- Simon Wakefield (Eng) 280 (-8) 74, 68, 70, 68
- Warren Abery (SA) 281 (-7) 73, 71, 69, 68
- Danny Willett (SA) (-7) 69, 70, 73, 69