Ernie Els held off great rival Retief Goosen to win the South Africa Open championship by a single stroke at Durban Country Club here on Sunday.
They finished with a six-under 66 each over the 6 157-metre layout in an enthralling head-to-head clash between the top two South African golfers of modern times.
Goosen from Polokwane shared the lead after the first round, Johannesburg-born Els led by two strokes after the second and one after the third and was always ahead over the final 18 holes.
Just one shot ahead eight holes into the second of two rounds played Sunday, Els sank a birdie putt at nine to turn with a two-shot advantage over his long-time domestic and international opponent.
And that lead stretched to four by 14 as Els drilled a 230-yard second shot close to the pin and dropped an eagle putt into the hole while Goosen had to settle for a bitter-sweet birdie.
As the second oldest national golf championship after the British Open turned 100 this week, it was fitting that locals occupied the top places with luckless Louis Oosthuizen (66) third and Charl Schwartzel (67) fourth.
Englishman Robert Rock (67) and French teenager Romain Wattel (68) shared fifth place and German Alexander Cejka and another Frenchman, Victor Riu, came next on the leaderboard. — Sapa-AFP