Brave Justin leaves it late to win in Swaziland

He hit a six-iron in on the 17th, and it turned out to be the shot that won Justin Walters the R850,000 Investec Royal Swazi Open.

The 30-year-old professional took his second Sunshine Tour title in the tournament which is played on a modified stableford system, with eight points for an albatross, five for an eagle, two for a birdie and none for par. One point is deducted for every bogey and two for double or worse.

His birdie on 17 – as his closest challenger Christiaan Basson made a par – proved decisive as he moved to 45 points for the tournament.

Basson bogeyed the last to finish third with 43 points, as Divan van Heever took advantage of his birdie on 17 to move to 44 and second place.

“I was really relieved to see that ball land on dry land,” said Walters, who won his first Sunshine Tour victory in the 2004 Parmalat Classic, a year after he turned professional.

“That one came quicker than I thought, but I confess I started wondering how long I was going to have to wait to have this feeling again,” he said.

But, after the second round, he wondered if this was going to be his week, and after making just a single birdie in his third round, he might have been forgiven for giving up hope.

But he rebounded with a superb closing 67, which included six birdies.

It was the single bogey on his scorecard that gave him a sinking feeling, however: “I three-putted the 16th,” he said, “and I thought I might have lost it there.

“I felt that might have been the downside of this scoring system, because, if you look at the strokeplay scores, you’ll probably find I would have done enough to win,” he added.

He did indeed finish 20-under-par for the tournament, while Van den Heever was 17-under. Basson was 13-under for the tournament.

The players had to sleep on their tensions as a thunderstorm halted play on Saturday with the leaders on the 13th fairway, and Walters and Basson locked on 44 points each, and Van den Heever on 40.

“It was almost a matchplay situation this morning,” said Walters, “and Christiaan and Divan never backed down. It was a tough battle.”

Walters ended up on the 18th – the 175-metre par-three at the Royal Swazi Spa Golf Club – with a long putt for birdie that he cosied the ball up to within two feet.

“I’ve always dreamed of having a short putt like that to win a tournament,” he said. “But first I had to stop my arms from shaking!”

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