Wednesday 13 December 2017

Schwartzel defends Alfred Dunhill Championship crown in South Africa

Charl Schwartzel
Charl Schwartzel

Phil Casey

Former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel won the Alfred Dunhill Championship for a third time on Sunday, successfully defending his title at Leopard Creek.

Schwartzel, who won by 12 shots last year, carded a closing 68 to finish 17 under par, four shots clear of England's Richard Finch, who returned a 70.

Simon Dyson, who faces a European Tour disciplinary panel on Thursday following his disqualification from the BMW Masters in October, shot a final round of 67 to finish joint third on 10 under alongside compatriot Ross Fisher and France's Romain Wattel.

The win will take Schwartzel back into the world's top 20 and makes up for letting a three-shot lead slip in the final round of the South African Open seven days ago.

The 29-year-old began the final round with a two-shot lead over playing partner Finch but saw that wiped out in the space of three holes as the Englishman birdied the first and third.

Schwartzel responded with a superb tee shot to within a few feet of the hole on the fifth to edge back in front, but a birdie on the sixth was matched by Finch, playing here on a sponsor's invite after losing his card at the end of the 2013 season.

It looked as though Finch, who won twice on the European Tour in 2008, would get back on level terms after a brilliant second shot to the eighth, but Schwartzel holed from 20ft and Finch did well to follow him in.

Finch made his first mistake of the day on the 11th, a wild drive leading to a penalty drop and a bogey five, although Schwartzel almost let him off the hook.

From the middle of the fairway the South African span a simple wedge shot back into a greenside bunker and eventually had to hole from four feet for par to extend his lead to two shots.

Schwartzel moved three ahead with a birdie from 10 feet on the 13th and the tournament suddenly looked over as a contest when Finch ran up a double bogey on the next, his approach from a fairway bunker hitting rocks on the edge of a water hazard and bouncing into some bushes.

Schwartzel's birdie putt from six feet lipped out, but he still had a five-shot lead with four holes to play. Finch reduced the gap with a birdie on the 15th, but Schwartzel was able to cruise home with a safety-first approach to seal his ninth European Tour title.

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