28 November 2011
Hennie Otto’s eyes were clenched tightly shut, his arms raised, club in the left hand, and his face lifted skywards after he sank the putt that secured him his first South African Open title at Serengeti Golf & Wildlife Estate on Sunday.
“This one is special because it’s our national Open,” he said afterwards. “You dream of these things, and with the names that are on the trophy, you can really be proud. When it comes your way you must enjoy it.”
It was only Otto’s second victory on the European Tour, following his win in the Italian Open in 2008. It was, however, his third win of 2011. He previously claimed the Dimension Data Pro-Am and Platinum Classic on the Sunshine Tour, which co-sanctioned the South African Open.
South African domination
It was also the tenth victory by a South African in their national Open in the last 11 years. Since 2002, the only man to break the South African monopoly was Scotland’s Richie Ramsay at Pearl Valley Golf Estate.
Otto’s win took the number of South African wins on the European Tour in the 2011 season to an astonishing seven. The others to claim titles : Ernie Els (SA Open), Louis Oosthuizen (Africa Open), Charl Schwartzel (Joburg Open and US Masters), Thomas Aiken (Spanish Open), and Garth Mulroy (Alfred Dunhill Championship).
The final day ended with a tense inward nine for Otto. He had begun play with a three-shot lead, on 14-under-par, and he was still three shots clear with six holes to play, but bogeys at the 13th, 15th, and 16th saw him slip into a tie for the lead.
Back on top
However, he quickly moved to the top of the leaderboard again on the next hole, the 17th, sinking a birdie to take him level par for the day. A par on the final hole sealed victory after an up-and-down day that featured four birdies and four bogeys.
The victory was timeous for Otto. It moved him up from 80th in the Race to Dubai standings to inside the top 60, which secured him a place at the lucrative Dubai World Championships presented by DP World.
Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger placed Otto under pressure with a final round of four-under-par 68, which included three birdies on the first five holes. He finished on 13-under 275.
Failed to make inroads
After three sub-70 rounds, Thomas Aiken failed to make inroads over the last 18 holes, carding a 72, to finish in a tie for third, three shots off the pace on 11-under-par 277.
England’s Richard McEvoy finished alongside the South African after a bogey-free four-under 68, while Ockie Strydom, a runner-up at three Sunshine Tour Big Easy events this year, closed with a 69 to finish on 277.
Defending champion Ernie Els had a forgettable showing. After opening with successive three-under-par 69s, he slumped to a 76 and 79 in the last two rounds to finish on five-over-par 293, in a tie for 69th place.
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