Ryan Cairns took his maiden Sunshine Tour title the flashy way on Friday when he equalled the course record in regulation and then chipped in for eagle on the first playoff hole to win the Vodacom Origins of Golf event at Simola Golf and Country Estate.
The 28-year-old Zimbabwean defeated Vaughn Groenewald in the playoff after the pair had finished level on 15-under-par, three strokes clear of Jake Redman and Louis de Jager who shared third.
ÂWith Vaughn in close on the playoff hole, I knew I had to hit that shot properly,Â said Cairns. ÂIt was actually a tight lie and I was going to putt it because I didnÂt want to duff it in front of all of those people.Â
He didnÂt, and his celebration signalled the relief of a man who has battled to get his game back to the highest level.
But his victory was set up by a round crafted by the highest quality golf as he made 10 birdies to match the 10-under-par course record set the previous day by rookie Drikus van der Walt Â coincidentally a playing partner for Cairns in the final round.
ÂI was playing great golf, and Drikus and Ruan de Smidt were great company Â it took two rookies to keep me relaxed,Â he said. ÂI felt very comfortable, but on the last hole, I got a little ahead of myself with my approach, and I nearly duffed it trying to go for the eagle and the course record for myself.Â
Cairns had to control the adrenaline while he waited to see whether Groenewald was going to force the playoff. ÂI was ready. I said to my caddie when Vaughn was on 17 that he was going to get to 15-under,Â he said. ÂI had this feeling I would have to play more golf.Â
Groenewald will look back on the 14th with a degree of regret: He made his only bogey during a round of 66, but having got so close, even that single dropped shot will feel painful.
ÂHowever, I have to be happy that IÂm playing well, and things are going in the right direction,Â said Groenewald who has made changes to his swing and this was just the second tournament since he did so.
Redman led going into the final round, and while he was disappointed with his final 71, he did beter than he did in the last two tournaments when he was in contention when he fired a pair of 77s to crash out.
De Jager, who won the 2009 Suncoast Classic, finished with a flourish as he eagled 18 for a closing 67, and his game is approaching the 2009 levels again.
Cairns, however, is on a high he will enjoy for a while Â but it will be tempered with a memory of what it took to win.
ÂItÂs a work in progress,Â he said. ÂYou never stop working. And now that I know what my routine is every day that has worked, IÂm just going to stick to doing the same thing.Â