Although Louis Oosthuizen was forced to manage a bad back and resist a strong continental challenge, there was little surprise that a home favourite triumphed at the Volvo Golf Champions in Durban.
Before this week, seven out of the last ten European Tour events held in South Africa were won by Saffers. Furthermore, all seven previous tournaments staged at the venue saw home winners.
I felt really comfortable out there all day
It was a foregone conclusion, despite the best efforts of the chasing pack.
Trailing compatriot Branden Grace by a shot with two holes to play, Oosthuizen rallied to make successive birdies on 17th and 18th to card a final round 68 and claim the title on 12-under par.
For the fourth consecutive year, the 2010 Open winner began the calendar year with victory on home soil as he defended the trophy he lifted 12 months ago.
Since then, however, things have been far for straightforward. A lower back injury has wreaked havoc with his itinerary as he was forced to endure a three month lay-off.
Consequently, the 31-year-old has been forced to adopt a short-term approach. He is only planning a couple of months in advance as he continues to manage the problem but victory at the Durban Country Club is indicative of his persistent endeavors.
Overnight leader Tommy Fleetwood extended his lead to three in the opening holes with a straightforward birdie on the second but let the chasing pack back into contention with a string of bogies thereafter.
The 22-year-old’s challenged waned in the heat but a strong finish ensured a tie for third alongside Joost Luiten, further boosting his hopes of a maiden Ryder Cup appearance later in the year.
With no fewer than eight of the 36-man field vying for positions at the summit, Oosthuizen turned the screw before the turn with an eagle on the par five eighth.
However, the momentum shifted between the two South Africans on the back nine as Grace thrusted himself into the lead with a decisive move in the closing stages. The 25-year-old was in the driving seat when Oosthuizen dropped a shot on sixteen but recovered in sensational fashion.
“I saw Branden was top of the leaderboard just as I was about to tee-off on 17, so I knew I needed to give myself a good opportunity so luckily the wind was at the left so I could take the pin on a bit. I still didn’t think I would get that close,” Oosthuizen said.
“I felt really comfortable out there all day, especially with my iron play and the putter behaved today, I hit some good putts. I managed to finish strong.”
He added: “I love the course, there weren’t a lot of drivers for me this week, more like a lot of three woods, a lot of two irons. But that’s what I love about the course, anybody can come and play here.”
Ireland’s Padraig Harrington finished two shots adrift alongside French duo Raphaël Jacquelin and Victor on nine-under.
Three-time Major winner Harrington has remarkably not tasted victory on the European Tour since his 2008 US PGA Championship triumph, but said after his 67: “It was nice to feel I had a chance coming down the stretch.
“I’m happy with how I am hitting the ball but distraught with the way I’m putting,” Harrington, whose caddie fell ill during Friday’s second round, added.
On the other side of the Atlantic, Jimmy Walker produced an incredible finish to his fourth round to finish on 17-under par, one shot ahead of overnight leader Chris Kirk.
Four birdies in the closing six holes saw the 34-year-old pull away from three of his closest rivals. It’s his second win of the season and propels him to the summit of the FedEx Cup standings.
After a disappointing weekend, Adam Scott recovered on the final day with a flawless 66 to finish in a tie for eigth while last week’s winner, Zach Johnson, and Matt Kuchar also finished in the top ten.
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