SA’s Christiaan Bezuidenhout secures successive wins on the European Tour
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SUN CITY – Christiaan Bezuidenhout secured back to back European Tour wins on home soil following a five shot victory at the 110th South African Open.
The 26-year-old began his final round with a five shot advantage over Welshman Jamie Donaldson, who cut the deficit to two before turn as the South African struggled to make an impact on the scoreboard at Gary Player Country Club.
But Bezuidenhout regained his form on the the back nine to sign for a 69 and finish on 18 under par overall to seal his third European Tour title of the season following his win the Dimension Data Pro-Am - co-sanctioned by the European Challenge Tour - in February and his magnificent four shot victory at the Alfred Dunhill Championship seven days ago.
The South African will be a dark horse at next week's season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai after climbing into the top five of the 2020 Race to Dubai standings.
"It's unbelievable to stand here with an Open win," Bezuidenhout said. "It's any South African golfer's dream to win a national tournament. It's unreal.
"I fought hard today, the front nine things didn't really go my way and I just dug deep to come out with a win today.
"That was massive (birdieing the tenth, 11th and 12th). I have to say, the second putt on 11 was huge and obviously the putt on 12 was a bonus, I just tried to get it close inside a couple of feet and made it.
"I knew I had to make pars coming in and I did it. I'm really, really chuffed to stand here as a winner."
Donaldson made an early move with an opening birdie to cut the gap to four shots before Bezuidenhout shoehorned his putt for a gain at the first in a sign of what was to come on his front nine in Sun City.
Bezuidenhout could not drain a putt from six feet at the next to remain at 15 under but when Donaldson holed out from length for a birdie at the third, he was three behind.
Donaldson produced a stunning bunker shot at the fourth to within three feet to save par but inexplicably missed his effort to drop back to 11 under.
The 2014 Ryder Cup star responded immediately with a birdie at the fifth as Bezuidenhout remained at 15 under after five opening pars.
Bezuidenhout and Donaldson could not improve their scores but it was the leader who blinked first when he found water with his approach into the eighth.
He pitched his penalty drop to 18 feet, leaving a testing putt for a bogey but the World Number 41 held his nerve to hole it and reduce the damage to one dropped shot.
Donaldson was now just two adrift of Bezuidenhout, however, the Welshman could not capitalise as he lipped out with a chip for birdie at the ninth, only to miss the par putt to slip three behind.
Bezuidenhout saved par after being in the bunker at the same hole and Donaldson was unlucky not to cut the gap to two when he lipped out once again at the tenth.
The leader began to get hot with his irons and dialled into four feet at the tenth to card his first birdie of the round and return to 15 under par - four ahead of Donaldson.
And he continued that momentum by picking up another shot at the next - after Donaldson did so in the group ahead - before sinking a superb birdie from the fringe at the 12th for a five shot lead at 17 under.
Donaldson cut the gap to four at the 14th thanks to a huge birdie putt and when he holed another from 15 feet at the 16th - he was only three adrift.
But Bezuidenhout showed why he sits at the higher echelons of the Race to Dubai as he attacked the par three 16th hole to land his tee shot to eight feet, which he drained to climb to 18 under.
Bezuidenhout effectively sealed his victory with a extraordinary couple of minutes at the 17th.
The home favourite went left off the tee and looked destined for the thick bushes but his ball somehow curled back into the rough after bouncing off the cart path.
Ahead on the same hole, Donaldson had 30 feet for birdie to pile the pressure on Bezuidenhout, only to three putt for a bogey and slip five behind at 13 under.
Bezuidenhout's luck did not stop there as his approach was helped towards the pin courtesy of a favourable bounce from the bank of the bunker as he escaped with a par.
And when he closed with a par, he became the first player since Justin Rose in 2017 to record consecutive European Tour victories.
Donaldson sealed second place at 13 under, with South African Dylan Frittelli two shots back in third and compatriot Dean Burmester in fourth at ten under.
JC Ritchie birdied the last to move into solo fifth at nine under, German Marcel Siem, Hennie Du Plessis and Zimbabwe's Scott Vincent were one stroke further behind in a tie for sixth while Frenchman Julien Guerrier and Scot Connor Syme rounded off the top ten at seven and six under par respectively.
The European Tour