Henrik Stenson closed with two birdies in his final three holes to win the South African Open at the Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate on Sunday.
Stenson fought off a strong challenge from George Coetzee and closed with a 71 to win on 17 under par and end a title drought stretching back over three years.
"I've had to fight hard the last few years on the golf course and I'm very pleased to pick up this win," said Stenson.
"When it takes that long between wins you wonder if there will be another. You've just got to fight hard and put the work in. In this game you need to put a lot of effort in to get something back. I'm very relieved to have won this one."
Coetzee also signed for a 71 to take second place on 14 under.
Stenson is the eighth foreigner to win the South African Open, and the second Swede following countryman Mathias Grönberg's victory in 2000.
Despite the tricky conditions of a strong wind throughout the round, Stenson was still two clear of Coetzee through the first eight holes. But on the par-three ninth, an old swing habit came back to haunt him and he hooked his tee shot into the water. It led to a double bogey and Coetzee parred to see them level going into the back nine.
"I knew it wasn't going to be easy. There was a firm breeze out there and I had a few guys on my tail. Then I threw two shots away on nine. But I wasn't panicking. I felt I had to keep playing my own game and try and produce chances out there," said Stenson.
The back nine turned into the match play battle Stenson had predicted. He birdied 10 and Coetzee responded with a birdie on 11. But the key was Stenson's up-and-down for par from the greenside bunker on 15, while Coetzee couldn't get up and down for par from the fringe and bogeyed the hole. Then Stenson's birdies on 16 and 17 put the title beyond doubt.
"I played aggressively coming in and made the birdies, and luckily George didn't. But George played well and will get that win sooner or later."
A 12-time winner worldwide, including the 2009 Players Championship, Stenson said winning the SA Open with the history involved was particularly special.
"Every win has a special meaning. I've won some great tournaments in my career but winning these traditional championships is always special. It's very humbling to get your name on a trophy that has so many great champions. Gary Player is on there 13 times, and I'm not sure I'll be able to match that."
Thomas Aiken and Martin Kaymer shared third place on 13 under, while Charl Schwartzel finished fifth on 11 under.
And 2011 champion Hennie Otto signed off on an incredible note with a course record 62 to finish ninth on eight under.
Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate will host the South African Open Championship in 2011 and 2012. The Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course at Serengeti is the first 27-hole golf course in Gauteng and was recently named “Best New Golf Course” by Golf Digest.
The 18-hole course called Masai Mara, which means “wide open plains” in the language of the Masai, has a rugged grassland and dune-scape look. One of the unique features on the course is the par-five eighth hole with its island green. The nine-hole course called Whistling Thorn has a more classic feel.
The courses were constructed in accordance with USGA specifications, with cool season grass that provides green vistas all year round. Designed as a strategic and technical masterpiece that will test today’s best players, the sunken design of the course with its wide corridors is ideal for tournament purposes and provides optimal spectator value on almost every hole.