Robert Allenby defeated defending champion Henrik Stenson of Denmark on the third hole of a sudden-death play-off on Sunday to become the first Australian winner of the Sun City Challenge.
A superb six-iron second on the par-four 18th at the 7 162-metre Gary Player Country Club in a north-west entertainment centre proved decisive following a gripping climax after both completed 72 holes in 277, 11 under par.
It landed in the heart of the green and the 38-year-old Australian, who won 10 of 11 previous play-offs, saw his birdie putt lip the cup before tapping in for a par four that reaped a $1,2-million reward.
Stenson, who more comfortably achieved par in the other two extra trips down the 18th, saw his marginally longer second stroke land off the green and after taking a drop, the chip caught a slope and he failed to make par.
”I’m glad it is over,” a weary Allenby said at the presentation ceremony after completing 21 holes in sauna-like conditions on a course playing tougher than Saturday due to a stronger wind.
”I had a putt in regulation play to win, but took too much time over the line and not enough on the pace. These things happen when you are under the gun and the mind is racing.
”Henrik is one helluva golfer and I thought we were going to be here all night, but knew his chip on the third extra hole was tricky because I was in the same position during the week.
”As for my six iron shot, I hit it high, straight and absolutely perfect. It has been an unbelievable week for me,” said the son of an English immigrant who now has 21 professional triumphs on his CV.
”It was nice to be the first Australian winner of this great tournament and I’m sure there will be many more,” he said to cheers from a pink-clad army of supporters.
Local hope Retief Goosen, who took a two-stroke lead into the final round, imnploded to a 75 and reigning US Masters champion Argentine Angel Cabrera suffered a similar fate to also drop out of contention.
These lapses allowed another South African, Tim Clark (69), and Englishman Ross Fisher (70) to climb into third place, one stroke adrift of Allenby and Stenson.
Stenson and Allenby, half an hour later in the final pairing with Goosen, had a chance to secure victory on the final hole of regulation play, but could manage only bogey fives.
Star pre-tournament attraction Rory McIlroy, the 20-year-old world number 10 from Hollywood in Northern Ireland, retired after rounds of 73 and 76 with a stomach bug. — Sapa-AFP