Caldwell comes up shy as NMB Championship is reduced to 54 holes

Mark McGowan

Björn Åkesson (Photo: Getty Images)

Mark McGowan

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Jonathan Caldwell had to settle for fifth place at the co-sanctioned Sunshine and Challenge Tour NMB Championship in South Africa as strong winds forced the tournament to be cut to 54 holes.

The Clandeboye man entered Sunday with a share of the lead having played 42 holes, but tournament organisers made the decision to cancel the fourth round after gale-force winds had forced a near six-and-a-half-hour suspension of play on Saturday and there were no guarantees that the same thing wouldn’t happen on Sunday.

As it happened, Mother Nature played ball and the completion of the third, and now final round went off without a hitch tournament-wise, if not for Caldwell who began by parring the par-5 seventh before falling back with a double-bogey six on the next.

Now with ground to make up and the leaders pulling further clear, he traded a birdie at 11 with a bogey at 13, and picked up another stroke over the closing stretch to end the week on -14 and solo fifth position.

After missed cuts in each of his two starts on the season so far, it’s a welcome return to form for Caldwell, though he’ll be disappointed not to have given himself a better shot at victory at the back end of the week.

Both Dermot McElroy and Gary Hurley had completed their third rounds on Saturday, shooting matching two-under rounds of 70 to end the week tied for 36th at six-under.

The victory was eventually taken by Björn Åkesson, who completed a sensational return to professional golf by securing his maiden Challenge Tour win.

The Swede posted a four under par round of 68 to reach 18 under par and win by one-shot ahead of two-time Challenge Tour winner Lee Slattery at Humewood Golf Club.

The 35-year-old retired in 2017 after losing his DP World Tour playing rights and falling out of love with the game, however he returned to the Challenge Tour this year after a stellar 2023 which saw him earn promotion by topping the Nordic Golf League Order of Merit.

“It feels amazing right now,” he said. “This win has given me so much confidence and belief in my golf game after not playing at this level for such a long time.

“I lost my DP World Tour card in 2016 and I wasn’t enjoying my golf anymore,” he said. “I decided to quit and go into coaching for a few years and after that I felt like I wanted to try and compete again.

“I graduated from the Nordic Golf League last season and I’m really looking forward to this year on the Challenge Tour.”


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