Gary Player Country Club is home to some of the world’s most amazing wildlife, but last week it played to host to some of the world’s greatest golfers in the penultimate event of the 2018 European Tour; the Rolex Series Nedbank Golf Challenge.
Sergio Garcia obliterated the field on Thursday in South Africa, getting around Gary Player Country Club in 64 with eight birdies and zero bogeys to boast a four-stroke lead. In typical Sergio style, he shot back-to-back 1-under rounds of 71 to build a score of -10 heading into the final round. His nearest challenger was home favourite Louis Oosthuizen on -8, with Belgium’s Thomas Detry, Finland’s Mikko Korhonen & England’s Lee Westwood sharing third on -7.
On Friday, Ross Fisher was on course for an 8-under round after an eagle and six birdies through 14, before a quintuple bogey at the par-5 15th followed by three consecutive bogeys brought the Englishman back to level-par. Whilst birdies and eagles were fairly free-flowing, the wildlife-filled course claimed plenty of double, triple & even quadruple bogeys throughout the week with the unforgiving surroundings punishing wayward drives to devastating effect. Just ask Marcus Kinhult, who racked up a whopping 11-over with six bogeys and 3 doubles to a lone birdie on Saturday. In fact, the methodical Sergio was the only man to finish in the Top-6 and not record at least one double-bogey throughout the week.
Sergio, the round 4 leader, bogeyed the first to open things up and Westwood took full advantage with a sublime eagle at the second. Oosthuizen then birdied the third to give us a three-way tie at the top before taking the lead with another birdie at the 5th. Sergio levelled it up at the next, then Oosthuizen retrieved the lead at the next; making it -11, -10, -9 between himself, Sergio & Westwood respectively. The South African then handed a shot back as Westwood gained one at the next to make it a three-way tie AGAIN at -10. Apparently allergic to pars, Oosthuizen then delighted the home crowd with a birdie at the 9th to start a three-hole birdie streak around the turn. That built up a two-stroke lead, only for him to blow it at the 12th with a bogey to Sergio’s birdie. Two tied for the lead and Westwood one behind with six to play.
Sergio steadied the ship with six consecutive pars to close… the other two did anything but. Both Westwood and Oosthuizen shot consecutive birdies over 13 & 14 to leave Sergio dwindling in third, but it was a bogey at 15 for the local lad that gave Westwood a share of the lead at -13. The Englishman seized his opportunity with another set of back-to-back birdies over 16 & 17 to reach -15. Oosthuizen fell victim to the course’s notoriously common double-bogeys at the last to hand Sergio outright second.
On the same day that Matt Kuchar sealed his first PGA Tour victory since 20th April 2014, Lee Westwood won his first European Tour title since 20th April 2014. Westwood’s flawless 8-under Sunday was deserving of any Tour title, and you could see how much it meant for the Englishman to snap a four-year winless streak as the tears flowed nearly as much as the champagne after seizing his 24th European Tour title and 43rd worldwide at the age of 45. Without doubt, an extremely popular champion.
Lee Westwood – What’s in the Bag?
Driver: PING G400 LST
3-Wood: PING G400
Hybrid: PING G
Irons: PING i210 (4-PW)
Wedges: PING i210, Glide Forged
Putter: PING Sigma 2 Fetch
Golf Ball: Titleist Pro V1
Written by Joe Carabini