Charl snares third Leopard Creek title

He’s not joking when he says he wishes he could roll up the fairways of Leopard Creek Country Club and take them all over the world – after all, Charl Schwartzel won his third Alfred Dunhill Championship on them on Sunday.


In becoming the first player to win the tournament for the third time – in the process successfully defending the title he won last year by 12 strokes – Schwartzel held off the challenge of England’s Richard Finch before cruising away to a four-stroke victory with his final round of four-under par 68.


“I played pretty flawless golf this week,” he said of a tournament in which he didn’t drop a shot after the 10th hole he played on Thursday – that’s 62 bogey-free holes.


“Richard played fantastically,” he said. “He came at me and we were level for quite a long time. It was difficult to keep hitting good shots and trust what I was doing, and it was nice that it eventually came to the outcome I was looking for.”


Finch started the final round with a two-stroke deficit on Schwartzel, and he had wiped that out by the third hole with his second birdie of the day. “He applied pressure very early on and all of a sudden it was anybody’s game,” said Schwartzel. “I knew that would happen, because two shots is really nothing, especially at this course, where there is lots of trouble.”


Schwartzel edged one clear with a superb tee-shot on the par-three fifth, and then the pair exchanged birdies on the sixth and eighth.


For a while, neither could shake the other free, until the 11th, where Finch lost his drive in the very thick rough on the right. The inevitable bogey was nearly enough to force the tight tussle to the next hole when Schwartzel spun his approach back off the green into the bunker on the left.


“I didn’t think it could do that,” said Schwartzel about a course that he gets to know and love better with every playing of it. But it did, and when the resulting par-putt from 10 feet went in, he pumped his fist in delight.


And then on 14, a really cruel bounce off the edge of a lateral water hazard saw Finch in an impossible position. “It was just one shot that he got unlucky with,” said Schwartzel of the double-bogey the Englishman made there.


After that, it was a case of switching off the afterburners for Schwartzel as he cruised home. “It became one of those where I had nothing to prove by hitting it at the flags and being aggressive,” he said. “It was no time to be a hero trying to hit those shots. I went into a mode where I was trying to make pars and put the pressure on him.”


That worked out just perfectly for him and puts a gloss on his season. “It’s been one of those years where I have played well and just didn’t get the wins,” he said. “Whenever you win and you’re playing well is great, whichever time of the year it happens.


“I’ve got two tournaments left and last week I played just as well as this week. It shows that I’m playing nicely and I’d like to see if I can continue.”


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