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Golf | SA

Sterne seals record-breaking win in Joburg



A scorching eight-under round of 64 helped Richard Sterne to a convincing seven-stroke victory in the co-sanctioned Joburg Open at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club on Sunday, and the 27-under total of 260 that he posted is a new record for the event.

Sterne began the day on 19-under in a share of the lead with Trevor Fisher Jnr (73), but stormed clear with five birdies on the outward nine.

After accumulating a four-stroke lead by the turn, Sterne didn’t falter, and three birdies down the closing stretch capped off a superb bogey-free round to secure a sixth European Tour title.

Former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel closed out his round of 67 with two consecutive birdies to finish in sole possession of second place on 20-under.

South Africa’s George Coetzee (67), who still awaits his maiden European Tour win, finished a further stroke adrift in a share of third place with Portugal’s Ricardo Santos (64) and Chile’s Felipe Aguilar (67).

Fisher, who started his round with an eagle at the par-five first hole, endured a difficult afternoon, and four bogeys and a double on a colourful scorecard meant he had to settle for a share of sixth place on 18-under with compatriots Thomas Aiken (66) and Keith Horne (65).

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Having triumphed at the 2008 Joburg Open, Sterne has endured mixed form in the event since, and a back injury blighted much of his 2010 and 2011 seasons.

Last week he narrowly missed out on a win at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, and the 31 year-old was thus understandably delighted to end a victory drought in excess of four years.

“It doesn’t feel like four years! Every win is special, and after all the hard work and time out with injuries one does question if you’ll win again.

“But it was quite special to finish the way I did today. Especially after last week, when I didn’t get the job done - I really wanted to get it done today.

"I hit the ball really well and played conservatively where I had to. I was just never really in trouble and I made the right putts at the right time,” Sterne concluded.

TURNING POINT

Sterne held a slender one-stroke lead walking up the sixth fairway, but it marked the turning point of the morning as his birdie catapulted him ahead after Fisher made an ugly bogey-six.

Sterne was scarcely under pressure from then onwards, and romped home to a record-breaking seven-shot victory.

“Things kind of went my way on six, when he (Fisher) tried to finish up and missed that. I had a sneaky little putt there and it was a really good one to make at that time - after he bogeyed.

“Then the putt I made on seven, and then I hit two really good shots on eight. That all came at the right time and I gave myself an advantage going into the back nine,” he explained.

The extent of Sterne’s back ailments was severe in 2010, and he admitted that he harboured fears of never being able to play professionally again.

He recovered to complete a full season in 2012, and, despite occasional periods of pain, his form has been on the up since.

However, Sterne confirmed that he might not be playing as much golf this year, although this time for very different reasons.

“At one time the injury was pretty bad and it did cross my mind, but you’ve just got to be patient. That was key, and when the pain came back I just took off eight months until it was completely healed. It was important to do that, because a lot of guys keep playing through an injury and eventually your confidence can go. I have three bulging disks, and they come up every now and then, so I have to manage that,” Sterne said.

“This shows me that I can still compete out here though, and I’ve just got to kick on from here and enjoy the year now. We’ve got a baby coming in June, so I won’t be playing too much then, so I’ll play a bit more now and then at the end of the year,” he added with a smile.

Schwartzel, who took a six-week break from competitive golf after victory at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December, conceded that Sterne was in a class of his own, but was nonetheless pleased with the way he kicked off his season.

“I started the tournament off badly so I’m glad with the way I came back at the end,” Schwartzel said after his round.

“A performance like this gets the year off to a good start. It’s a good tournament and Richard’s run away with it, but if it was anything else I might have won. That’s good confidence going into the year.”

FINAL SCORES

260 – Richard Sterne 63 65 68 64

267 – Charl Schwartzel 68 65 68 66

268 – Ricardo Santos 70 65 69 64, George Coetzee 67 64 70 67, Felipe Aguilar 67 66 68 67

269 – Keith Horne 67 66 71 65, Thomas Aiken 67 70 66 66, Trevor Fisher Jnr 66 62 68 73

270 – Lorenzo Gagli 67 68 68 67, Garth Mulroy 70 68 65 67

271 – Brandon Pieters 69 69 67 66, David Drysdale 68 67 68 68, Jaco Van Zyl 66 68 67 70

272 – Bryce Easton 65 70 70 67, Tommy Fleetwood 68 66 69 69

273 – James Kingston 66 70 70 67, Justin Walters 71 67 67 68, Paul Waring 71 67 67 68

274 – Tyrone Ferreira 66 70 71 67, Ricardo Gonzalez 70 66 70 68, Hennie Otto 70 67 69 68, Lee Slattery 67 72 67 68, Danie van Tonder 68 70 67 69, Peter Uihlein 65 69 68 72

275 – Tyrone Mordt 65 70 71 69, Darren Fichardt 67 69 70 69, Adilson Da Silva 66 72 70 67, Robert-Jan Derksen 69 70 67 69

276 – Steve Webster 71 67 69 69, Maximilian Kieffer 63 72 72 69, George Murray 71 66 69 70, Jacques Blaauw 70 67 71 68, James Kamte 70 67 68 71

277 – Allan Versfeld 66 73 69 69, Jake Redman 66 71 72 68, Bjorn Akesson 69 67 73 68, Dean Burmester 67 68 69 73

278 – Richard Finch 67 68 71 72, Jose Manuel Lara 69 65 73 71, Oliver Fisher 68 68 70 72, Jaco Ahlers 71 68 69 70, Justin Harding 69 70 70 69, Tjaart van der Walt 67 69 69 73, Tom Lewis 72 65 67 74, David Horsey 66 72 72 68, Lasse Jensen 68 70 73 67

279 – MJ Daffue 65 70 71 73, PH McIntyre 72 67 72 68, Jbe Kruger 68 70 74 67

280 – Phillip Price 68 71 69 72, Espen Kofstad 66 71 72 71, Alexandre Kaleka 66 73 71 70, Scott Henry 69 70 71 70, Merrick Bremner 68 69 73 70

281 – Ulrich van den Berg 71 68 68 74, Gary Boyd 67 71 69 74, Ryan Cairns 67 70 70 74, Joakim Lagergren 65 71 73 72, Peter Hedblom 72 67 72 70

282 – Bradford Vaughan 69 70 71 72, Andy Sullivan 68 70 72 72, Graeme Storm 76 62 73 71

283 – Ockie Strydom 66 71 73 73, Gregory Havret 70 69 74 70

284 – Alessandro Tadini 67 71 69 77, Oliver Bekker 68 68 73 75, Gary Lockerbie 70 69 75 70

288 – Michael Hollick 70 69 71 78

290 – Joshua Cunliffe 67 70 82 71

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