Lee Westwood produced a stunning closing 64 to win his first Rolex Series title at the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player.
The Englishman entered the final day at Gary Player Country Club three shots behind long-time leader Sergio Garcia but an eagle on the second put him at the top of the leaderboard and set up an enthralling three-way battle between those two and local favourite Louis Oosthuizen.
The heavyweight trio went blow-for-blow on one of the most entertaining afternoons of the season and it was former World Number One Westwood who birdied five of his last eight holes to get to 15 under and prevail over his Major Championship winning rivals.
Westwood’s triumph is his third at Gary Player Country Club after the Sunshine Tour’s Dimension Data Pro-Am in 2000 and this event in 2010 and 2011 before it joined the European Tour International Schedule.
The 45 year old’s last victory came at the 2014 Maybank Malaysian Open and he was fighting back the tears after taking his tally to a remarkable 24 on the European Tour and 43 worldwide.
Spaniard Garcia signed for a 70 to finish at 12 under, one shot ahead of Oosthuizen who closed with a 69. While England’s Ross Fisher was then at eight under, a shot clear of countryman Matt Wallace and China’s Li Haotong.
Li needed a win to keep his hopes of winning the Race to Dubai alive but results in Sun City mean that it will be either Francesco Molinari or Tommy Fleetwood who will be crowned Europe’s Number One after next week’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.
Belgian Thomas Detry finished at six under, one clear of England’s Aaron Rai and two ahead of another Englishman in Chris Paisley and South African Darren Fichardt.
Lee Westwood: “Pretty emotional. A little bit relieved. Still got it, I guess. Just nice to do it again under pressure and win against a couple of quality players at the end there, Sergio and Louis were my two nearest challengers. To hit the shots I hit down the stretch, it was just nice to prove it to yourself every now and again.
“It’s not such an easy golf course when the wind is in the direction it was and it was swirling as the day went on. I made a nice par on one, and a great three wood on the second to about three feet. Then made a lovely par at the third and then just steadied off and gave myself birdie chances pretty much all the way around. It was essential to get off to a quick start and put a bit of pressure on Sergio.
“Well, until now, my emotions have felt really under control all day, which is what I’ve been working on. I was just trying to hit fairways and stick to my game plan and hit it in the right places. I’ve got a bit of a process I’m going through with the golf swing. I’m starting to see better shots. The seven iron into 17 is probably one of the best shots I’ve ever hit. It all just worked, and it was great to it with Helen (Storey).
“It’s been brilliant. She’s caddied twice for me this year and we lost in a play-off in Denmark and we’ve won here. Have to have a bit of a rethink, not least about who caddies for me, but our percentages.”
Sergio Garcia: “You have to give credit to Lee. To shoot 64 in the last round, I mean, the greens were a little bit softer today but still, you had to go out there and do it. It’s not that easy.
“I played okay. I didn’t have my A Game, other than Thursday, but I fought hard. I stayed patient. Things didn’t really happen too much to me. I hit some good shots and a couple more putts here and there.
“I’m thrilled for him. He had a bad Ryder Cup at Hazeltine and he struggled a little bit, and he’s been playing much better this year. He’s been knocking on the door for winning. He played well in Valderrama. I wish I would have won myself, but if not, obviously to see Lee do it is pretty nice.
“It’s some good momentum. Obviously finishing second here, it’s a great result. I would have loved to win but second is still a good result and a lot of positives out of it. At the same time, I’m looking forward to putting the clubs away and rest a little bit, but I still have two more weeks, Dubai and Hong Kong, and after that we’ll be able to rest a little bit.”
Louis Oosthuizen: “It’s not the result I wanted. I played really well today and was up in the leaderboard there for a while but Westwood, the way he played the back nine, I was pushing hard at the end to try something. Proud of the way I handled it. I felt I gave myself a lot of birdie opportunities and I played really well. Just had to do too much there at the end.
“I played well today. There’s not much I could have done more. I made good putts. I missed a few easier putts, but all in all, I attacked when I wanted to attack and I pulled a lot of good shots off.
“The big thing today for me was committing to the shot and taking it on, and don’t really matter what the outcome was. I did all that. There was maybe one or two I didn’t pull off. There’s not much more I can ask for.”