Aiken wins playoff to claim Africa Open

17 February 2014

South Africa’s Thomas Aiken captured the Africa Open, co-sanctioned by the European and Sunshine Tours, at the East London Golf Club on Sunday after a playoff against England’s Oliver Fisher. It was Aiken’s third European Tour win, but his first on home soil.

Aiken trailed Fisher by two shots heading into the final round, but a four-under-par 67 brought him level with the Englishman, who closed with a 69, on 20-under 264.

Third round leader

After a sensational nine-under-par 62 on Saturday, Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo headed into the last 18 holes four shots clear of Aiken, but the magic he produced in his 62 was missing in the final round as he posted a two-over-par 73 to finish two shots behind Aiken and Fisher.

Only one extra hole was needed to decide the winner as Aiken birdied the 18th and Fisher made par.

‘The sweetest’

“I’d say it was the sweetest because it was in South Africa,” Aiken said of his victory afterwards.

“I’ve been wanting to win one for the South African fans for a while now, and I’ve come close many times. It’s so nice to finally get one under the belt here.”

South African successes

Apart from winning at home, Aiken said he also wanted to preserve South Africa’s record of having produced the winner of the event ever since it was first played in 2008. “I was adamant to keep it in South Africa, and thank goodness I managed to do that,” he said.

“It’s a tournament with three Major champions (Retief Goosen, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen) engraved on the trophy, so it’s a good one to win.”

With his regular caddie unable to make the trip to East London, Aiken’s wife took charge of his bag. “She’s not only my best friend, but now she’s one of my best caddies,” Aiken laughed.

World Rankings

Aiken’s win saw him rocket up the Official World Golf Rankings, improving 34 places from 113th to 79th in the standings.

The title was the 37th won by a South African from the 58 events jointly-sanctioned by the European Tour and Sunshine Tour since they first joined forces in 1995. It was also the 20th South African victory on the European Tour since the start of the 2012 European Tour season, which is the most wins by any country.

Third place

After firing four birdies over the last six holes, England’s David Horsey finished with a six-under-par 65 to share third place with the USA’s John Hahn on 19-under-par 265, one shot behind the leaders.

Defending champion Darren Fichardt joined Grillo in a tie for fifth on 18-under-par 266, alongside fellow South African Jaco van Zyl and England’s Richard Bland.

LEADERBOARD

  • Thomas Aiken (RSA) 264 (-20) 66, 65, 66, 67
  • Oliver Fisher (Eng) 264 (-20) 66, 63, 66, 69
  • David Horsey (Eng) 265 (-19) 66, 64, 70, 65
  • John Hahn (USA) 265 (-19) 66, 64, 70, 65
  • Jaco van Zyl (RSA) 266 (-18) 69, 65, 67, 65
  • Darren Fichardt (RSA) 266 (-18) 66, 67, 67, 66
  • Richard Bland (Eng) 266 (-18) 64, 69, 64, 69
  • Emiliano Grillo (Arg) 266 (-18) 68, 63, 62, 73
  • Keith Horne (RSA) 268 (-16) 68, 69, 66, 65
  • Damien McGrane (Ire) 268 (-16) 67, 69, 67, 65
  • Lucas Bjerregaard (Den) (-16) 64, 67, 69, 68
  • Ulrich van den Berg (RSA) (-16) 66, 68, 65, 69