Best of my life’ – Sterne on Joburg Open win

Richard Sterne produced the best final round of his career on Sunday as he strolled to a seven-stroke victory in the €1.3-million Joburg Open at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club.

Sterne won by the biggest margin in the history of this tournament, and also produced the lowest 72-hole total when he closed with a 64 to win on 27-under-par 260.

“That was probably the best final round of my career. It was quite special to finish the way I did,” said Sterne, who won for the first time in four years and 51 days since the 2008 South African Championship.

He defeated 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, took second place on 20-under with a 66, while Portugal’s Ricardo Santos matched Sterne’s 64 to finish in a share of third a further stroke back with Felipe Aguilar of Chile and South Africa’s George Coetzee.

How dominant was Sterne’s win? It was the first time since Tiger Woods won the 2002 WGC-CA Championship that a player has won on the European Tour while making just one bogey for the tournament.

That came on the 52nd hole during the third round, and he was a dominant force on the final day. Starting the round tied for the lead with Trevor Fisher Jnr, Sterne birdied the first two holes, made three successive birdies from the sixth, birdied the 13th and then birdied his final two holes to win comfortably.

“I was never in trouble and made the right putts when I needed to.”

It was an incredible performance from a player who all but disappeared from the game because of bulging discs in his spine. At one stage he never touched a club for eight months.

“After all the hard work and the time out with injury, I did think whether I was ever going to win again. At one point the pain was so bad that I even wondered if I’d ever play golf again. But now I know I can.”

For all his experience, Sterne admitted to being nervous on the first tee. “And then Trevor went and eagled the first, and I thought I was in for a real battle,” he said.

But a superb tee shots on the second hole settled him down, as did the resultant birdie on the testing 231-metre (253-yard) par-three. “That was maybe the best shot of the week,” said Sterne. “I hit four-iron to maybe a foot-and-a-half.”

Then he really felt the turning point come on the sixth hole. “I had a sneaky putt there and it was good to make after Trevor made bogey on the hole. It came at the right time to give me an advantage going into the back nine. Then I just wanted to keep my foot on the pedal and win by as many shots as I could.”

Sterne’s win moved him to the top of the Race to Dubai, the European Tour’s money list with €450,053, as well as to the top of the Sunshine Tour’s Order of Merit with his cheque for R2,493,205.

He also climbed into fourth spot in the Race to the Investec Cup, the Sunshine Tour’s new series of events which will climax in March with a R1-million tournament for the top 30 players in that list, and they will also share in a R5-million bonus pool.

For Sterne, the win has opened possibilities for him ahead of the birth of his first child in June. “I’ve just got to kick on from here and enjoy the year now,” he said.

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