Wayward Charl finds his way to Joburg Open win

It was a measure of the way things went for him that Joburg Open winner Charl Schwartzel’s approach shot to the 18th nearly went in twice as he successfully defended the title he won last year.

He won last year by six strokes, and was nearly as dominant this year in the €1.3-million tournament co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and the European Tour, played at the 6,940-metre (7,592-yard) East Course of the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club.

He rifled his third on the 504-metre (551-yard) straight at the pin, and the ball nearly hooped in on the second bounce, before spinning back and narrowly missing the hole.

Schwartzel rammed home a six-footer for birdie after that and wrapped it all up.

He hit a solitary fairway on his homeward nine on Sunday, but still managed to go two-under-par on his way home to a 19-under-par total of 265 and a four-stroke victory over Garth Mulroy.

The man who had been second for much of the day, Thomas Aiken, was not as lucky, and made two bogeys on his way in to slip into third place at 14-under-par.

“Garth and Thomas probably outplayed me on the back nine,” said Schwartzel, “but I managed to get a few more putts in the hole.”

Schwartzel bogeyed the ninth, and things started to look a little shaky for him. “I hit that second shot a little strong there,” he said, “and that wasn’t a good bogey for me.”

It showed as his tee shots started to spray all over the course, and a series of par saves that seemed little short of miraculous kept him in the tournament while Mulroy and Aiken each dropped a shot on the 11th.

And then he put his approach into a very damp greenside bunker on the 384-metre 13th. Even though, under dry conditions, it would have been a regulation up-and-down, the bunker shot had become a daunting proposition.

Up he stepped, and cool as a cucumber, he bounced the ball out, it hopped three times and disappeared into the hole 35 feet away.

Game, set and match.

Although he was not able to find the fairway with any regularity for the remainder of the round, his extraordinary scrambling powers kept the bogeys at bay, and he marched to his second successive title in the tournament.

Even on the 18th, with the tournament all but wrapped up, he was still wayward off the tee, having to chip out from behind a tree after he had pushed his drive to the right.

It was a second time in the runner-up berth for Mulroy after he lost out in a playoff in 2008 to Richard Sterne, but it marked a return to the form which saw him win his PGA Tour card last year.

For Aiken, it was so near, yet so far once again – and he will go back to Europe knowing he is as close as he has ever been to a European Tour breakthrough.

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