South Africa’s Trevor Immelman won the 27th edition of the Nedbank Golf Challenge on Sunday, in spite of bogeying the final three holes at the Gary Player Country Club.
He outplayed England’s Justin Rose, who blew up with a double-bogey six at the last, in what turned into a nervy two-horse race between the two players in the final round.
Immelman shot a 72 for a 16-under-par aggregate of 272, with Rose signing for a 73 and 273.
South Africa’s Ernie Els was third on 277 after a 72, and Swede Henrik Stenson fourth on 279, also following a 72.
”I’ve always been very determined to be a world-class golfer and winning the World Cup for South Africa was one highlight, and outplaying Tiger Woods to win the Western Open on the PGA Tour last year was another,” said Immelman.
”But this event is what we in South Africa have always regarded as Africa’s Major. Ever since I was a kid I’ve watched it on television. I dreamed of playing it one day, and then I dreamed of winning it.
”Today [Sunday] that dream has come true and it is a very special moment for me.”
Immelman and Rose started the day sharing the lead on 16-under-par 200, but the South African bogeyed the first hole, and Rose birdied the second.
Suddenly Immelman was two behind but he played superbly for the next 13 holes — chipping in twice, at 10 and 14, for birdie — to pull two ahead.
Then he went bogey-bogey at 16 and 17 and suddenly it was all square again.
The pressure was mounted and Rose hooked his tee-shot into deep rough at the treacherous par-four 18th and had to lay up short of the 100m stretch of water that fronts the green before ”air-mailing” his third over the green into the grandstand.
He was allowed to drop out under penalty but ended up making six.
Immelman split the fairway with his drive and then hit a seven-iron into the fringe just over the back of the green.
He fluffed his first chip before hitting the next chip two feet past the hole and sinking that for victory and the $1,2-million that goes with it.
Immelman has had an almost unique relationship with Gary Player over the year.
Player, winner of nine Majors, has taken an interest in Immelman’s golf ever since he was a young boy.
The South African legend congratulates his young compatriot when he does well, commiserates when he doesn’t, and offers advice and criticism when the occasion demands.
”Perhaps it is because we are similar in stature and both really work hard at our game. Maybe he sees something in me that reminds him of how he was at my age.”
Els, who was chasing a record fourth title here, started the day five strokes back and in third position but much to the disappointment of the home fans he bogeyed the opening hole to fall six back.
He also dropped shots at number eight and number twelve, and three-putted the island green at the ninth, admittedly from about 30m — for a par five when he desperately needed a birdie.
Stenson, who was lying fourth through 54 holes on 209 and nine shots off the pace, lost momentum in the final round with double-bogey sixes at both the fifth and 13th holes.
But he still managed to play the inward loop in 34 strokes for a 72 to finish fourth on 279, one ahead of South Africa’s Rory Sabbatini, who was fifth on 282 after a 71
The woes continue for South Africa’s Retief Goosen, who a year ago was world number five, but has now dropped to 23rd in the rankings. He stumbled home in 78 Sunday for a 10-over-par 298 total to finish stone last in the 12-man field. — AFP