Louis Oosthuizen held off Charl Schwartzel and overcame final-hole drama to end a five year wait for his tenth DP World Tour title at the weather-affected Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa.
After 12 previous appearances, Oosthuizen admitted that this event was one he “really, really wanted” as he closed out a two-stroke victory on Monday with a dramatic par save at the final hole.
The South African, who had been three ahead with three to play, missed a short putt at the 17th and then found the water off the tee at the 18th, which forced him to take a drop and lay up with his third.
On a day of excellent wedge play from the champion, Oosthuizen produced another masterful shot as his ball landed a few feet from the hole, but it rolled back more than 20 feet, leaving him to see in a brilliant but testing par chance to secure victory in the fifth event of the Opening Swing as playing partner Schwartzel was unable to capitalise.
“This is one of the tournaments that I’ve always wanted to win,” said Oosthuizen, who completed 11 holes of his final round on Monday.
“It took me a while. It’s always a great place coming back to. I wouldn’t say 18 was kind to me this time, but I managed it a little bit, maybe not on the last hole there but I got it through.
“I feel very calm now. Rupes put a text this morning that said whoever plays 18 thinking the best is going to win. I just got on that tee shot and wanted to hit a seven wood but with all the rain it felt like it was so wet while we were standing I thought I’m just going to hit my driver down the left and obviously made a bad swing.
“The golf course was unbelievable. I can’t believe we got a fourth round in with everything we got. It’s such a great place to come to, and this is a tournament that I really really wanted.
“I had a good run there through 13 to 15 and I’m glad to see Charl with all the things he was going through with his shoulder with injuries that he’s playing well and I just got lucky on this one.”
After threat of lightning and heavy rain meant the final group could complete just seven holes on day four, the final group returned to the eighth fairway on Monday morning just after at 9am local time to resume their final rounds.
Tied at the top with Schwartzel on 16 under par, Oosthuizen almost immediately gained an advantage due to an expert up and down as the four-time champion hit a wayward approach into the trees and had to scramble for an opening bogey to drop one behind.
After trading pars at the ninth and three-putts for bogey at ten, both men responded with a birdie at the 11th: After Oosthuizen spun his wedge shot back beautifully past the pin to set up his birdie, Schwartzel sunk his own gain with a putt from off the green.
A second long putt in as many holes saw Schwartzel briefly climb back alongside the leader, but from there it was Oosthuizen who pulled ahead. With long putts of his own for back-to-back birdies at 13 and 14, he then hit another excellent wedge shot at the 15th to help seal a three shot advantage with three to play.
While it initially seemed a comfortable advantage, there was still drama to be had. A mistake at the par four 17th saw the leader’s par save slide by the hole to reduce his lead to two, and his tee shot at the 18th hit a tree and found its way into the stream that separates the 18th and ninth holes at Leopard Creek Golf Club.
It opened the door for Schwartzel to attempt to force a play-off, but his second shot to the par five only narrowly missed the water at the side of the green, and his wedge shot wasn’t much closer than Oosthuizen’s fourth. There was still a chance for him, but Oosthuizen closed that door with his winning putt, and Schwartzel missed his birdie chance to finish the hole on the same score they started, securing his fifth runner-up finish in this tournament.
Fellow playing partner Bezuidenhout had originally started the final round five strokes back but birdied three of his first five to enter Monday’s completion just three behind, but played the remaining holes in one under to finish in solo third on 14 under par.
Four shots behind him were Challenge Tour Road to Mallorca Rankings winner Marco Penge, German Matt Schmid and Frenchman Darius Van Driel on ten under, with a group of four further players rounding out the top ten on nine under – which included Jayden Schaper, whose tie for seventh is a third consecutive top ten in the Opening Swing.