• Harding puts stamp on meteoric rise

    Justin Harding
    Harding is headed to Augusta

    Justin Harding completed the only task on his incredible rise in the world of golf on Sunday when he claimed a one-shot win at the Qatar Masters, writes WADE PRETORIUS.

    The 33-year-old was seven shots better on Sunday as he erased any negative feelings about his third round 73 in double quick time.

    Harding, with two local wins and two on the Asian Tour, has been doing duty on the European Tour thanks to his continued success and sponsor’s invites. That form and those invites have now paid dividends after a superb final round in Doha.

    The Stellenbosch star wiped any fears of a slow round with three birdies in his opening four holes.

    His perfect Sunday wasn’t without a wobble as he needed a brilliant back nine to offset his bogey-bogey wobble at 6 and 7. Those shots were recovered at 10 and 12 before he showed his class down the stretch.

    Birdies at 15, 17 – a left to right putt off the back of the green – and a two-putt birdie on the last helped him set the tally at -13.

    Countryman Christiaan Bezuidenhout looked like one of the half dozen that could match that forcing a playoff like the one here back in 2003 when Darren Fichardt beat James Kingston.

    With the pressure on, Bezuidenhout fluffed his chip on the short par 4 16th and two-putted for par on the last to sign for a 68; good enough for a share of second place.

    Erik van Rooyen battled a cold putter all day but finished in the group sharing second after a 70. He was all pars from hole 6 to 17 before a two-putt birdie on the par 5 18th.

    George Coetzee, who like Harding was sharing the halfway lead, eagled the last to finish as one of the nine players two back of Harding.

    Harding’s first win on the European Tour opens his schedule up significantly with the option now to pick and choose events that suit him best.

    The win also adds to South Africa’s illustrious record in the event with Harding following Branden Grace (2015 and 2016), Retief Goosen (2007), Ernie Els (2005) and Fichardt.

    Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images

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