He called it the hardest win of all the 11 he has taken in the series, and Jean Hugo’s one-stroke victory over the young Jacques Kruyswijk was certainly his most spectacular as he unfurled an eight-under-par 64 to ease clear in the Vodacom Origins of Golf event presented by Samsung at Vaal de Grace.
Hugo once famously hunted down Charl Schwartzel, who carded a final round of 65, with a course-record 62 to beat him in 2010 at The Els Club Copperleaf. This time, his prey was in his sights, paired with him, and even a mercurial five-under 67 from Kruyswijk could not keep him at bay.
“I could really see the guy next to me,” Hugo said, “and seeing him play as well as he did made it tough. He didn’t let up. I didn’t really make mistakes, but he didn’t make mistakes either. It was a great battle.
“I’m lucky to have pulled this off. It took 64. It was one of the best rounds that I’ve ever played. To stay in the moment for that long was very special for me.”
Hugo, who had to overcome a two-shot overnight deficit, played his hand early, with five birdies in the opening seven holes, during which time Kruyswijk made three, so they were level. And then Kruyswijk stumbled with a bogey at eight.
Better players have weathered in the face of the calm Hugo final round onslaught, but Kruyswijk fought back with dramatic birdies on nine and 10 to take the lead again. Hugo’s riposte was swift, as he birdied 11 to bring things back to level-pegging.
Then he took advantage of the par-five 14th where Kruyswijk was short off the tee, and he made birdie to edge ahead.
It was a lead he held to the finish, but not without drama: He bogeyed 15 from inside three feet, watched as Kruyswijk came agonisingly close with a long putt on 16, matched Kruyswijk’s incredible birdie from the sand and the fringe on 17, and sweated while his opponent’s putt missed by millimetres on 18.
“I knew if I made the putt on 15, I would have been two clear,” said Hugo, “and maybe it would have been a bit easier coming in. And when he made the birdie putt from the fringe on 17, that was bit of a shock, because I thought I was going to be two up playing 18. But we really gave our all. He can be very proud of himself.”
Behind them, young Zander Lombard put some pressure on the leading pair with his 65, which saw him finish in third for his best finish on the Sunshine Tour. And Michael Hollick, following his maiden Sunshine Tour victory last week, blitzed the final round in nine-under-par 63 to finish in fourth.
In the end, the brilliance and experience was what separated Hugo from the rest. “It’s been a long time that I’ve been professional,” he said. “All the hard work will pay off when you need it. And today I needed it.”