Lee Westwood rolled back the years to take the glory at Gary Player Country Club.
It would be cruel to suggest that Louis Oosthuizen or Sergio Garcia lost the Nedbank Golf Challenge after being odds-on, both when it came to the views of bookmakers and spectators, starting the back nine at Sun City.
Cruel to Lee Westwood too after the 45-year-old Englishman and former world No. 1, produced a brilliant 64 to come from three shots back to win by two. It was the round of the tournament, matching the 64 that Garcia had shot on day one, but better, given what was at stake. Eight birdies, no bogeys. Wow.
Westwood, twice a champion here in 2010 and 2011, was asked after day one what he thought a winning lead would be going into the final round. ‘There’s no such thing as a winning lead around here. There are so many variables, the wind, heat, altitude, rough, bounce, tricky greens. It’s the type of course where you can drop two shots in the blink of an eye.’
And on Sunday there was plenty blinking and at the end of a dramatic turnaround it was he who was left standing with the trophy and a magnum of champagne in one hand.
Oosthuizen didn’t show it outwardly, but he will be haunted by throwing away a lead down the back stretch, having recovered from three-putting the eighth hole for the third time in the week by making birdies at Nos 10 and 11. Finally, he seemed to have broken the back of Garcia’s challenge, but Westwood was like chewing gum that was stuck under his shoe. And it was the South African who cracked first.
Holes No. 8 and No. 18 played the toughest on the day and in those two holes Oosthuizen leaked three shots. He finished three behind Westwood, so no prizes for guessing what might have been. In truth, it was game over when the South African bogeyed the 15th and virtually at the same time the Englishman, playing in the threeball a hole ahead, made birdie at No. 16 and then hit one of the best shots of his life at No17, with a seven-iron from 183 yards.
The drama that followed at the last hole, where Oosthuizen hit his drive way right and then nearly ‘killed someone’ with his approach shot that cannoned into the ridge of the paving and shot backwards, was never going to affect the result. Oosthuizen needed to make two at the final hole, and win a Volvo in the process, to force a playoff.
It was a disappointment for the many fans who had arrived at the course with hope and expectation. Some of them were struggling in the heat and showing visible signs of staying up late to watch the Springboks beat France the night before – an example being one imbecile who shouted ‘get in the hole’ on Rory McIlroy’s approach to No.17. Had the ball ‘got in the hole’, McIlroy too would have won a Volvo car, but instead had to settle for a polite round of applause.
The highest-ranked player in the tournament at No. 6, McIlroy was never at the races during the week, his rounds of 72, 71, 73, 71 seeing him sign for a one-under 287, 14 shots behind Westwood and in a tie for 16th.
South Africa’s challenge was led by Oosthuizen, while Darren Fichardt closed with a 72 for 284 and a tie for ninth.
But it was all about Westwood, who one imagines will have had a night as big as the occasion befitted. He struck a blow for the ‘golden oldies’, coming from behind to win in style at the age of 45. A popular man in these parts, he looked stunned at what he had just pulled off, overcoming the ‘variables’ that he had spoken about.
As for Oosthuizen and Garcia, they were left knowing that it took one of the great rounds in Nedbank Golf Challenge history to get the better of them. And that in itself makes them all winners.
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