Sunshine Tour

Paisley hails caddie wife after SA Open win

Chris Paisley (Gallo Images)
Chris Paisley (Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - Chris Paisley of England defied the odds near Johannesburg on Sunday to win the South African Open, his maiden European Tour triumph, then hailed his wife for her starring role as his caddie.

READ: Paisley defies odds to beat Grace and win SA Open

The 31-year-old carded a six-birdie final-round 66 at sun-drenched Glendower Golf Club for a total of 267 and a three-stroke victory over Branden Grace of South Africa, who closed with a 68.

It was the first tournament in which Paisley had his bag carried by wife Keri, and he praised her during the prize-giving ceremony.

"Unbelievable! I just cannot say enough about how good a job she did this week," said the golfer whose only previous professional win was in the second-tier European Challenge six years ago.

"She never put a foot wrong. It is the first time she ever caddied. I just cannot thank Keri enough," said the native of Hexham, a market town in northeastern England.

"I still cannot believe I have won the SA Open. Going head to head with Branden this afternoon was tough.

"Honestly, I did not think I was capable of playing that well and finishing top of the leaderboard."

Grace trailed Paisley by one shot entering the final round, but was expected to triumph given his far higher world ranking of 30, much greater experience and huge home support.

Within two holes, eight-time European Tour champion Grace nudged ahead thanks to an eagle three, and many in the gallery believed Paisley would quickly crack under the pressure.

But the Englishman ranked 289 in the world held his nerve and moved into a two-shot lead after the sixth, which the 29-year-old South African double-bogeyed.

By the turn, Paisley had stretched his advantage to three shots and never looked like faltering on the back nine in stamina-sapping heat.

He did find a bunker at 15, but got down in two, effectively closing the door on any chance Grace had of halting a great English run in the South African Open.

Andy Sullivan won the event in 2015 and Graeme Storm triumphed last year, leaving Paisley to make it three victories in four editions for English golfers.

Paisley, who narrowly avoided being relegated to the Challenge Tour for this year, was ultra steady all week, picking up 24 birdies and conceding only three bogeys.

Highlights of his play included an ability to reach greens in regulation and also to get down in two on the odd occasion he did not achieve that feat.

Seeking a first SA Open title, Grace could not match the last-round consistency of Paisley, claiming two eagles and three birdies, but a double-bogey and a bogey stained his card.

The European Tour moves to the Middle East next week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and returns to South Africa in March when Pretoria hosts the Tshwane Open.

South African Open leading scores Sunday after final round at par 72, 6,942-metre/7,594-yard Glendower Golf Club near Johannesburg (RSA unless noted):

267 - Chris Paisley (ENG) 66-65-70-66

270 - Branden Grace 65-71-66-68

272 - JC Ritchie 72-70-65-65

274 - Jacques Blaauw 68-70-66-70, Jacques Kruyswijk 68-67-71-68, Scott Vincent (ZIM) 70-66-71-67

275 - Darren Fichardt 70-71-64-70, Chase Koepka (USA) 65-71-68-71, Renato Paratore (ITA) 71-67-69-68, Adrien Saddier (FRA) 68-63-73-71

276 - Charlie Ford (ENG) 71-72-67-76

277 - Jorge Campillo (ESP) 70-70-67-70, Marcus Kinhult (SWE) 70-72-66-69, Hennie Otto 71-72-70-64

278 - Kyle McClatchie 68-71-68-71, Ryan Evans (ENG) 74-67-68-69, Trevor Fisher jnr 69-70-67-72, Neil Schietekat 70-72-69-67, Charl Schwartzel 69-70-69-70

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