Ernie chokes

2007-12-10 00:00

Ernie Els suffered a final hole collapse to hand England’s John Bickerton a third European Tour title in the Alfred Dunhill Championship yesterday.

The world number five came to the par-five 18th hole at Leopard Creek Country Club with a two-shot lead over Bickerton, who had earlier fired a classy four-under-par 68 to finish on 13-under.

But the triple major champion twice found the water surrounding the green to leave with a triple-bogey eight, finishing one stroke behind Bickerton on 12-under-par.

England’s Lee Slattery was tied with Els in second place after a solid one-under-par 71.

The 37-year-old Bickerton did not watch the closing hole of the tournament and was in disbelief when he was told he had won.

“I’m in shock. I was just around the corner talking to a cameraman and I thought I might have a chance of finishing second,” he said.

“I had no idea what was happening behind me and it’s all a bit sudden.”

Bickerton, who began the day four strokes behind Els, made a fast start courtesy of an eagle three at the second hole.

He picked up another birdie at the par-four sixth hole, but his putter let him down on nine and 10 as he missed two short par putts.

The Dubai resident was solid thereafter and collected another three birdies, including a 20-foot putt for a three at 17, while not dropping another shot through to the close.

Slattery may have had a chance of winning, but missed a four-foot birdie putt at 13 to draw level with Els, pushed his second shot into the water on the 15th and then left a 10-foot birdie putt on 18 that would have forced a playoff with Bickerton on the edge of the hole.

“Ernie will be gutted, I shook his hand but what can you say? I feel bad for him, but he’s won a lot and he’ll win a lot more,” Bickerton said.

“I said I was coming here to just enjoy the week, but I felt comfortable throughout and I putted solidly, that’s how you make a score,” said Bickerton, who was the only golfer to be under par for all four rounds.

— Reuters.

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