Big Easy back in the swing of things
Ernie Els produced a stellar final-round five-under-par 67 to finish second at the HSBC Champions event at Mission Hills Golf Club in Shenzhen, China, on Sunday.
The Big Easy was tied on 19 under, for a 267 total, alongside Americans Jason Dufner, Phil Mickelson and Scott Piercy, and two adrift of winner Ian Poulter of England in the co-sanctioned European and PGA Tour event.
For his efforts, Els earned €320 562 (R3,6 million) and moved up four spots to 20th in the official world rankings released on Monday.
Els began his final round in scorching fashion, with two birdies in a row starting on the par-five third.
The Open champion then reeled off three birdies in succession from the par-five seventh hole to go out in five-under 31.
The 43-year-old struggled coming home, missing a crucial par putt from inside three metres on the par-four 14th. He bounced straight back with a birdie at the par-five 15th but was unable to cut further into Poulter's lead.
Els had only two bogies for the week, but he did have a double bogey in the third round on the par-five 15th – the difference between second position and a playoff in the end.
Further behind, in a tie for sixth on 18 under, was Louis Oosthuizen, who had held a share of the lead after three rounds and after 36 holes enjoyed a five-stroke lead on 16 under.
With the comfortable cushion, it seemed Oosthuizen was set to run away with the tournament, as he had done in the 2010 Open Championship.
Instead, he played through the weekend in just two under as he struggled to rounds of 70 and 72.
Oosthuizen would have been consoled though, with his world ranking improving one place to 10th – equalling his highest ever position in the ratings list.
Countryman Thomas Aiken ended tied 28th on an eight-under total. Aiken threw in 20 birdies for the week, but he offset them with nine bogies and a horrendous triple bogey on the par-four 12th in the second round.
Further down, in a tie for 56th, were George Coetzee, Garth Mulroy and Jaco van Zyl on two over par.
Former SA Open champion Henni Otto and four-time European Tour winner this season, Branden Grace, were tied for 62nd on three over par.
Jbe Kruger was the bottom-placed South African in 68th position on five over. Kruger started the week with a disastrous 83, but he signed for his best round of the event with a five-under 67 in the final round.