He was acutely aware that the man with whom he was playing on Sunday was one of South Africa’s favourite sons, and the 2011 Masters champion, but Morten Orum Madsen of Denmark survived all those pressures to win the 2013 South African Open Championship.
“To have the SA Open as my first victory on the European Tour is extremely special,” he said. “If you look down the list of names that have won this tournament in the past there are major champions and really great champions all around, so it’s an honour.”
He carded a bogey-free five-under-par 67 over the testing Glendower Golf Club layout to finish on 19-under-par 269 for a two-stroke victory in the Sunshine Tour and European Tour co-sanctioned tournament over Jbe’ Kruger and 2011 SA Open champion Hennie Otto.
In the process, he hauled in third-round leader Charl Schwartzel (right) who finished in a share of fourth with Italian European Tour rookie Marco Crespi after a fraught final round of one-under-par 71 which included a triple bogey and a double bogey.
“I can’t remember the last time I was that nervous” Madsen said of his approach shot to 18, at which point he knew that the tournament was his to squander, as he had a two-stroke lead. “It was just a wedge, a great yardage for me and a nice shot to have into the last green, but still, it was just so hard.”
Being paired with Schwartzel for the final round of a local championship the South African has yet to win could have proved daunting for Madsen, but he kept his cool with two birdies in his opening nine to move to 16-under-par for the tournament.
“When Charl started out like he did, hitting awesome shots down the first four holes, I thought he was going to head off and leave the rest of us behind,” said Madsen. “I was just trying to hang on and stay within two or three shots so that I would have the chance to do something special on the back nine.”
Meanwhile, Schwartzel’s game inexplicably fell apart with a triple bogey on the seemingly innocuous sixth – although, in his defence it was the fourth most difficult hole on the course for the day. He deposited his tee shot on the 182-metre (199-yard) par-three into the water, and then his second spun back so sharply, it too nearly ended up in the water. And a three-putt compounded his problems.
“I still had to catch Hennie Otto (left) and I really didn’t think I could win before I birdied 13 and 15. Then I thought that maybe I had a chance to make one or two birdies on the last three and make a playoff, because Hennie was already two shots ahead.
“I hit a really great shot into 16 and made birdie there. Then I hit a really good six-iron on the green at 17 and when I came down there I saw that I was leading by two. Hennie had doubled 16. It’s tough to describe the feeling you get we you find out that you’re two shots up on the field with one hole to go – it’s pretty special.”
Otto had been setting the course alight for the second consecutive day, just as he had done during the third round. He moved to 20-under-par for the tournament with his seventh birdie of the day on the 14th, but then the bogey on 15 and the double on 16 abruptly halted what looked like a stroll to his second victory in three years.
And Kruger (below) was also on a charge of note, eventually finishing with a seven-under-par 65 with and eagle, seven birdies and two bogeys on his card as he raced through the field to eventually secure that share of second.
Madsen has been coming to South Africa for some time – initially just on vacation. “From the very first time I played in South Africa I thoroughly enjoyed it,” he said. “Obviously when we Europeans come down here it’s tough to compete with South Africans, because they are used to the conditions with the altitude and weather. I always thought I would play pretty well in South Africa, but I didn’t expect to win. It’s an amazing feeling.”