9 January 2012
South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen successfully defended his Africa Open title at East London Golf Club on Sunday to move to the top of the European Tour’s Race to Dubai standings.
His victory in the event, which was also co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour, marked the first time he has been successful in a European Tour title defence. It was also his fourth title on the Tour and his ninth career victory.
In addition, it was Oosthuizen’s sixth top-eight finish on the European Tour in succession, which serves to underline his growing maturity as a consistent top contender.
In 2011 it took a playoff for Oosthuizen to win, but this time around he won by two shots after three strong rounds and an outstanding performance in the second round in which he fired an 11-under-par 62, sinking nine birdies and an eagle three on the par-five sixth.
Tjaart van der Walt pushed Oosthuizen all the way. He matched the 2010 Open champion with a 69 in the first round, carded a 64 in response to Oosthuizen’s 62, and then shot a 65 to Oosthuizen’s 67 in the third round to enter the final round on even terms.
On Sunday, the outcome wasn’t decided until the 71st hole, when Oosthuizen nailed a 35-foot putt for birdie to move two shots clear.
He finished on a superb tournament record 27-under-par 265, with Van der Walt ending two shots adrift on 25-under-par 267.
For Van der Walt, it was a case of so near yet so far again; it was the ninth runner-up finish of his 15-year career which has yet to produce a victory.
“It was a real dogfight for most of the day,” Oosthuizen said after securing victory.
“I remember watching Tjaart when I was an amateur, and it was just great seeing him play to his potential today. He played really well. He’s one of those who won’t go away. He’s not going to mess it up. He’s too consistent for that.”
Retief Goosen, the 2009 champion, played steadily and turned in rounds of 65, 68, 66, and 69 to claim third place on 24-under-par 268.
Jaco van Zyl ended fourth on 23-under 269, while Alistair Forsyth of Scotland was the first foreign finisher, taking fifth with a total of 22-under-par 270.
Sixth place went to South Africa’s Richard Sterne, who had spent almost a year on the sidelines because of back problems. In an encouraging return to action, he finished on 20-under 272.
On Sunday, it was also was announced that the East London Golf Club will host the Africa Open for the next five years, thanks to a sponsorship from the Buffalo City municipality.
“The dedication from Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality since they joined as sponsors in 2009 has been commendable,” Oosthuizen told the European Tour.
“Their support has gone a long way in ensuring the successful growth of the Africa Open. It’s wonderful news for all of us that have grown to love this tournament that we will be coming to the Africa Open’s home for the next five years.”
Two-time US Open champion Retief Goosen said: “I think it’s a win-win situation for everyone and I want to congratulate both Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality and Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency.
“The Africa Open has benefited East London on an economic level, golf development has been given a wonderful boost since the inception of the Africa Open and our professional golfers have a wonderful opportunity to compete for great prize money and a chance to win European Tour membership.”
(South African unless otherwise stated)
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