EKURHULENI, South Africa, Nov 18 (Reuters) - Henrik Stenson fired a one-under-par final round of 71 to win the 102nd South African Open on Sunday, helping him to qualify for the lucrative DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
The Swede finished three strokes ahead of South Africa’s George Coetzee at the Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate to claim his seventh European Tour title.
Stenson started the day on 16-under-par after three impressive sub-70 rounds at the Jack Nicklaus-designed course and held a three-shot lead over Coetzee.
He endured a nervy start and a double-bogey at the par-three ninth hole which rounded off a disappointing outward nine of 38.
Stenson regained his composure however, and made three birdies without a blemish on the way home to post a winning score of 271.
“I hit a couple of loose ones out there, and obviously the one on nine was a bit like that. I left the club behind a little bit...wrapped it and hooked it into the hazard which wasn’t a great time to do that,” Stenson told reporters.
“Sometimes you need a poor one to wake you up and make you more determined so that you’re committed on the next one. I was in the driver’s seat for most of the week, so it was good the way it turned out. It’s nice to seal the deal and it wouldn’t have been nice not to.”
Coetzee, who still awaits his maiden European Tour victory, eagled the par-five third hole to send out a warning shot to his playing-partner Stenson.
Two successive bogeys followed, but he pushed the former Ryder Cup player all the way, and the pair were level walking down the 15th hole.
A bogey there ended his challenge as Stenson birdied the 16th and 17th to close out the event, forcing the home hero to settle for a sole-second placed finish.
Martin Kaymer’s tournament improved after a slow start and he carded six birdies en route to a final round of 67 to finish 13-under-par.
South African Thomas Aiken matched Kaymer’s score of 67 and finished in a share of third place with the German.
Charl Schwartzel finished two further strokes adrift as a 67 saw the former Masters champion claim fifth place.
Stenson became only the second foreign player to lift the South African Open trophy since 2001 and his winner’s cheque for 158,500 euros ($201,400) secured his place in the Race to Dubai final next week.
“It was great that I came down here,” Stenson told www.europeantour.com.
“One of the bigger reasons was I was 59th in The Race to Dubai standings and I needed a good week.”
His performance also ended a three-and-a-half year victory-drought for the 36 year-old after his last win came at Sawgrass in May 2009.
The European Tour’s season-ending championship in Dubai begins at the Jumeirah Golf Estates on Thursday with defending champion Alvaro Quiros looking to retain his crown from favourite Rory McIlroy who finished first in this season’s Race to Dubai standings. ($1 = 0.7871 euros) (Reporting by Michael Todt; Editing by Mark Pangallo)