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The Joburg Open trophy is staying at home after Charl Schwartzel successfully defended his title, the third South African to defend a title on the European Tour.
CHARL SCHWARTZEL, the highest ranked player in the field, successfully defended his Joburg Open title in the fifth annual tournament, held at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Course.

 

City manager Mavela Dlamini hands over the Joburg Open trophy to Charl SchwartzelCity manager Mavela Dlamini hands over the Joburg Open trophy to Charl SchwartzelSchwartzel, a Joburg native, finished the fourth round of the tournament with four-under 67, overcoming difficulties including two bogeys mid-round on 16 January, the final day of the Open. He was happy to please the home crowd, who greeted him with shouts of “Schwartzel – King of Joburg!”
 

“I love playing in Johannesburg,” said the champion. “I grew up here and feel right at home, so I couldn’t have asked for a better place to defend a title.”

Executive Mayor Amos Masondo, who presented the 26-year-old with his trophy, proclaimed his joy at a native winning the tournament, saying: “I am very happy the King of Joburg has prevailed.”

Masondo also thanked the all golfers who participated, those visiting from abroad and locals, for their continuing support.

With a final total of 19 under 265, Schwartzel is now the first South African to win back-to-back titles in the Joburg Open and the third to defend a title on the European Tour, following Ernie Els and Trevor Immelman.

Start of play
The day began with Schwartzel tied with fellow South Africans Garth Mulroy, who finished second on 15 under with a final score of 71, and Thomas Aiken, who was third on 14 under finishing with a total of 72.

Despite the two being better off the tee, their short game could not match that of Schwartzel. The world number 32 played solidly on the front nine but struggled to hit a fairway on the back nine. His superb short game is what brought him back.

 

The winning ballCharl Schwartzel hits the winning ball (Photo: Enoch Lehung, City of Johannesburg)“I started off well, which was tough in the rain. In any tournament, when you're tied with someone, it’s important to get off to a good start. My first nine holes put a lot of pressure on them, so I got my nose ahead. I just tried to find a way to stay ahead,” he explained.
 

“I was swinging well until my bogey on the ninth. Then I lost my rhythm and couldn’t get it back. I had to dig deep and really trust my short game. My mind was in the right place and that pulled me through.”

Sunday’s Joburg Open win is Schwartzel’s sixth European Tour title; it earned him a purse of €206 000 (about R1,9-million).

“That’s what you need to do to win. You won’t always hit the ball well but you need to find a way to get the lowest score.”

Despite the dismal weather – with rain most of the day – golfing enthusiasts flocked to the course to watch some of the sport’s best battle it out on the soaking green. Darion Walters, who has watched the tournament since 2009, said: “I come every year. It’s always so much fun to see the pros live and the tournament is always exciting.”

An avid amateur golfer with a handicap of 10, City manager Mavela Dlamini was also seen among the crowd, following the leading trio and immersed in the game.

Day three
The previous day – the third in the four-day tournament – was also upset by bad weather; while rain did not stop play, however, it did make the game all the more difficult.

At the end of day three, tied for third place were Schwartzel, Aiken and Mulroy on 15-under par, one stroke clear of Scotland’s David Drysdale.

“It was a tough day,” said Schwartzel. “The wind blew a lot, and on this golf course it’s never in one direction. It swirls, which makes it difficult to choose clubs. I hit the ball well but missed a few putts.”

 

Mulroy Garth Mulroy tees off on the third day of the Joburg OpenSchwartzel’s failure to hole birdie putts on 13 and 14 and then the three putt on hole 15 giving him his second bogey for the day left him with his worst score of the tournament.
 

Aiken also battled the wind. “The swirling wind made it really tricky, and the pin placements in general were nasty. I think they were in the worst positions on every hole,” he said. Aiken is a seven-time winner of the Sunshine Tour.

“I did what I needed to do, didn’t do anything ridiculously bad, but it just didn’t want to go in the hole.” Despite his hope that the final day would go the other way, however, he lost out to his countryman.

PGA tour
The Joburg Open sets the pace for 2011, as it is a co-sanctioned Order of Merit event on the PGA European Tour and Sunshine Tour. It is the first tournament of the year on the European circuit to stake a claim towards the Race to Dubai.

Dlamini pointed out that the significance of co-sanctioning was that the winner earned an exemption right to play on the European Tour for three years, “which translates to greater exposure, larger prize opportunities and great prestige”.

It started with the Pro-Am, a build-up to the main event, on 12 January. The main competition followed a day later, on Thursday, with over 200 professional and amateur players contesting for the final prize in a 72-hole stroke play championship.

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