Sterne cruises to 7-stroke Joburg Open win|
Johannesburg, South Africa (Sports Network) - After battling Trevor Fisher,
Jr. for much of the tournament, Richard Sterne pulled away with an 8-under 64
on Sunday to win the Joburg Open by seven strokes.
Sterne, who was coming off a runner-up finish at the Dubai Desert Classic,
ended at 27-under 260 and picked up a long overdue sixth European Tour win.
The South African titled here in 2008, but hadn't produced another victory
since December of that year.
"It was a pretty special day," said Sterne. "I played really good golf today
and the whole week really."
Fisher shared the lead with Sterne through 36 and 54 holes, but the Sunshine
Tour regular stumbled to a 1-over 73 at the East Course at Royal Johannesburg
and Kensington Golf Club and dropped into a tie for sixth place at minus-18.
Charl Schwartzel, a two-time Joburg Open winner, produced a second-place
finish in his season debut. The 2011 Masters champion turned in a final-round
66 and ended at 20-under.
George Coetzee (67), Ricardo Santos (64) and Felipe Aguilar (67) tied for
third at 19-under, while Keith Horne (65) and Thomas Aiken (66) shared sixth
It was another close call for Coetzee, who is still seeking his first European
Tour win despite 22 top-10 finishes. Prior to this outing, the South African
tied for second at the Qatar Masters.
Sterne was close to finding the winner's circle last week in Dubai when he
jumped out to a 1-shot lead through 36 holes, but the long awaited victory was
put on hold and reduced to a runner-up result when Stephen Gallacher rallied
for the win.
"It's quite tough coming from a good week into another week; you kind of do
expect to play well," Sterne admitted. "But I got off to such a good start on
the West Course (which he played in round one before switching to the East
Course for the remainder of the week) and felt comfortable."
Now, the 31-year-old has his sixth European Tour victory; one that has eluded
him since 2008 due in part an arthritic condition in his back.
Of the two overnight leaders, it was actually Fisher who jumped ahead early
with an eagle at the par-5 first. It was not a sign of things to come,
however, as he faltered with three bogeys over his next six holes.
That was all the margin Sterne needed, as the resilient veteran birdied his
first two holes, and later reeled off three straight birdies starting at No. 6
to close his outward nine with a 5-stroke advantage.
It was a formality from there, as Fisher suffered a double bogey on the 11th
and the eventual champion carded three more birdies to close his bogey-free
round in style.
"I didn't think I was going to be out for so long, but six months became a
year and then almost two," said Sterne. "The only thing that kept me going was
all the other South Africans. They kept winning a lot of events and I believed
that if they could do it then I could."
NOTES: Sterne became the first player since Tiger Woods in 2002 to only drop
one shot in a 72-hole European Tour event ... Sterne played in 54 European
Tour events between wins ... Schwartzel finished 2012 with back-to-back wins,
which came by a combined 23 shots ... This tournament is co-sanctioned by the
European Tour and Sunshine Tour of South Africa ... Defending champion Branden
Grace missed the cut on Friday after turning in rounds of 72 and 70.
02/10 08:21:13 ET