Sterne stuff seals Dunhill win

2008-12-14 00:00

MALELANE (Mpumalanga) — Richard Sterne claimed his fourth European Tour title when he triumphed in a dramatic final round of the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek yesterday.

Sterne made three consecutive birdies on the back nine for a 69 and a winning total of 17 under par, with Johan Edfors and Robert Rock sharing second on 16 under par.

Sterne’s victory also secured him the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit title.

The Pretoria professional went into the final round four strokes off the lead of Thomas Aiken, but won the championship with a composed back nine as his challengers faltered.

Aiken was three strokes clear of the field before making two bogeys at holes nine and 10 and then a double bogey on the 11th.

American Len Mattiace briefly held the lead on the back nine and then added to the drama as he squandered a shot at victory with an inward loop of 41, featuring a double bogey and triple bogey on his card.

And amid all of this, Sterne surged into the lead with three consecutive birdies from the 13th. Aiken was one behind Sterne playing the par-five 18th and made a final bid to catch him by going for the green with his second. But it found the water and he finished tied fourth.

“I only saw the leaderboard on 16 and got a surprise to see I was leading by one. That’s when I knew 17 under would be good enough,” said Sterne, who arrived at the 18th with that slender lead and had to compose himself before playing a hole where he had made double bogey and triple bogey in the previous two rounds.

“I just told myself to make par. I obviously wasn’t feeling too comfortable and played it exactly the way I wanted to play it. That’s a tough hole, but I got through it. I don’t think many have won this tournament with a triple and double on that hole.”

Ernie Els famously made a triple bogey eight on the 18th to lose this event last year, and Sterne says the triple Major champion phoned him at Leopard Creek the night before the final round.

“I spoke to Ernie and he was giving me hell about that eight I made in the second round. I knew if I messed up 18 on the last day I would never hear the end of it,” said Sterne.

This is the second victory of the year for Sterne after winning the Jo’burg Open in January.

“I had a great start to the year and great finish. Everything in between wasn’t too good,” he said.

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