After five play-off victories in his career, Jake Roos didn’t need one on Sunday to win the R1.65-million Golden Pilsener Zimbabwe Open as he took the title by one stroke at Royal Harare Golf Club.
With his 14-under-par total of 274, he edged ahead of overnight leaders Darren Fichardt and Italy’s Francesco Laporta who shared second, while Doug McGuigan and Lindani Ndwandwe shared fourth another stroke further back on 12-under-par. Jaco Ahlers was fifth on 11-under.
“It was a clutch final round that pulled it off for me,” said Roos, who started the final day four shots behind the leaders. “It started well, and then got a little slow in the middle when I made a bogey on the seventh. I finished strongly with birdies on 13, 15 and 16.”
On a day on which the leaders seemed unable to get anything going – Fichardt’s round contained six bogeys and six birdies, and the rookie Laporta made two bogeys and a triple-bogey before settling down to sign for level-par – Roos knew what he had to do.
“At the beginning of the back nine, I saw that no-one was really pulling away, so I knew I still had a great chance, and, from there on, things started to happen for me,” he said.
They certainly did, and nowhere more so than his delicate chip in for birdie on the 15th, where a local Royal Harare player pointed out he’d need great hands to get it close. He did better than that as the ball hit the flag stick and fell into the hole.
Another birdie on 16, and he was in front for good – but it still was a nail-biting wait for him, as both Fichardt and Laporta had putts to force a play-off.
“I was getting ready for it,” he laughed. “You don’t want to be surprised and suddenly go down the 18th again for a play-off.”
Fichardt’s lengthy putt from the back of the green hit the hole at speed and stopped right next to it, while Laporta’s 12-footer slid just millimetres by the edge.
“I’m glad I didn’t have to play extra holes,” said Roos, “but you can’t count out the other guys until the last hole is done.”
There were some thrilling chases lower down in the field: McGuigan set off with five birdies in the first nine holes, but he managed only one more on his homeward nine for his six-under 66.
His playing partner, Zimbabwean Ryan Cairns, had the crowd roaring its approval as he made birdies round the turn, and then two more on 15 and 17 to move to 12-under. But a bogey on 18 saw him slip to 11-under, but still the best performance by a Zimbabwean.
Ahlers had a fine 68, but the round of the day came from Desvonde Botes, who carded a seven-under 65 to finish 10-under for the tournament – and that was with three bogeys on his homeward nine!
In the end, none of that was good enough to catch Roos. “It’s right up there with the Cape Town Open, and winning another summer event on the Sunshine Tour gives me a lot of confidence,” he said.