Thomas makes it three at Africa Open

On Sunday Thomas Aiken drained a 45-foot birdie putt at the 18th hole of East London Golf Club to clinch a playoff victory at the Africa Open Golf Challenge and lift his third European Tour trophy.

 

“I’d say it was the sweetest because it was in South Africa. I’ve been wanting to win one for the South African fans for a while now and I’ve come close many times. It’s so nice to finally get one under the belt here,” he said.

 

The Africa Open has not been won by a foreigner. Aiken, an eight-time Sunshine Tour winner, was determined to stop England’s Oliver Fisher from beating him in a sudden-death playoff after both players finished regulation play on 20-under-par.

 

“I was adamant to keep it in South Africa, and thank goodness I managed to do that,” said Aiken. “It’s a tournament with three major champions engraved on the trophy, so it’s a good one to win.”

 

The 30-year-old from Johannesburg also had his wife Katy on the bag for the first time.

 

“That was interesting. My regular caddie has had some issues back home and I had a friend on the bag last week. I was contemplating what to do this week and my wife said ‘I’ll carry the bag.’ We got a smaller bag for her and she did a fantastic job, so thank you caddie! She’s not only my best friend, but now she’s one of my best caddies,” he laughed.

 

Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo led by two shots heading into the final round, but came undone at the first and took three shots to get out of a greenside bunker before eventually walking off with a nine. He recovered his round superbly and birdied his final five holes to finish tied fifth on 18-under-par.

 

“It’s been a good start to the year, and of course I was looking for a win today, but the first hole pretty much took me away from the tournament. Coming down the stretch I thought that a couple of birdies would get me into the top 10. At the start of the week if I had a top-10 I would have taken it and I finished fifth. Five birdies to finish the last round and the way I was playing, I’ll take it,” he said.

 

Defending champion Darren Fichardt made a solid move on the front nine, where he made four birdies and an eagle between the third and seventh. He continuously shaved the cup on the back nine but was unable to get his scoring going and joined Jaco van Zyl, Richard Bland and Grillo in a share of fifth.

 

David Horsey sank a superb 20-footer from the fringe at 17 and then a 15-footer at 18 to finish with two birdies. The Englishman birdied four of his final six holes to set the early clubhouse benchmark at 19-under, but he was eventually overtaken and left to a share of third place.

 

American John Hahn had a good start with birdies at the first and third, but failed to keep his momentum going and went on to card 69 and join Horsey in a share of third.

 

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