By: Nick Krige
And what a fantastic way to end the year with the legendary Ernie Els winning the 100th South African Open, being chased all the way to the wire by career-long rival and good friend, Retief Goosen.
For those of you that didn’t catch the last 34 holes of the 100th SA Open yesterday, you seriously missed out.
The excitement at the end would have had some people thinking that it could have been scripted.
Huge amounts of rain on the first day meant that the final two rounds were both scheduled to be played on Sunday, but more rains early on Sunday morning made the fourth hole unplayable, reducing the number of holes to be played by each player to 34.
Ernie finished on a mammoth 25-under par with Goosen finishing only one shot behind.
Most would not have expected it to be so close after Els eagled the 14th and opened up a four-shot lead but Ernie knew what was coming.
“We have played against each other since we were kids, and I know he’s a very good player,” Els said of Goosen.
And Retief repaid Els faith in kind with three consecutive birdies at 16, 17 and 18.
“I was very nervous standing on the 18th tee,” admitted Els. “That’s why I took five-wood there, because it’s a great finishing hole and the whole tournament can take a big swing right there.”
Els would also have been acutely aware that the two times that Goosen has won the SA Open have been at the expense of the Big Easy coming down the stretch.
But Els’ par at the last was enough for the one-stroke win.
Fittingly as well Els and Goosen were being chased by the next generation of potential South African greats, Charl Schwartzel and Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen.
Oosthuizen shot a gutsy final round 6-under 63 to get within four shots of Els and Schwartzel finished a further three shots behind Oosthuizen on an up-and-down day that included a hole-in-one during his third round and starting his final round with a double bogey.
It was a fantastic day of golf, worthy of the 100th anniversary of the second-oldest Open golf tournament in the world.