Sterne seals record-breaking win Johannesburg
SOUTH African Richard Sterne produced a faultless closing round to claim a seven-stroke victory over local boy Charl Schwartzel with a tournament record 27-under at the Johannesburg Open.
The 31-year-old from Pretoria, who had not won on the European Tour since 2009, sank eight birdies in his closing 64 to card a new record of 260.
Sterne never looked in real danger after overnight joint-leader Trevor Fisher Jr saw his challenge collapse with a one-over-par final round.
Fisher, starting early due to the threat of bad weather, opened up with an eagle on the par-five first but faltered from then on while Sterne remained consistent. The latter collected five birdies to head into the turn at 24-under par.
The South African was second to Stephen Gallacher in Dubai last week and his £176,242 victory at the Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club put him into the world top 64, good enough to qualify for the Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona.
In what proved a close race for second place, Johannesburg native Schwartzel shot eight birdies in his 66 to finish on 20-under 267.
A day's equal best, an eight-under 64 from Portugal's Ricardo Santos, saw him finish a shot further back in a tie for third with South African George Coetzee and Felipe Aguilar of Chile.
Garth Mulroy, Brandon Pieters and Keith Horne had all been in contention at the turn, but were unable to maintain their birdie runs over the back nine.
Fisher, meanwhile, picked up a double-bogey six on 11 and dropped another shot at the 17th, which he pulled back on the final hole to go into the clubhouse with a total of 269 to tie for sixth.
Scotland's David Drysdale remained the best-placed British golfer, tied for 11th after dropping a costly shot on 16 having opened up with five birdie on the front nine.
Tommy Fleetwood, from Southport, was tied 13th on 15-under after his closing 69 saw him finish on 272.
Sterne has overcome injury problems, after missing most of the 2010 and 2011 campaigns because of a form of arthritis in his back.
The South African now moves to the top of The Race to Dubai with 450,053 Euros (£380,602).
After his record-breaking display, Sterne said: "It was a pretty special day.
"It is quite tough coming from a good week into another week; you kind of do expect to play well, but I got off to such a good start on the West Course and felt comfortable.
"Having won here before I do enjoy the place and that is why I keep coming back."
Sterne has his sights now set on breaking into the top 50 of the world rankings.
He added: "I would like to get back into all the Majors - that's where I want to be playing.
"It is a big year. I have got off to such a nice start so hopefully I can keep it going."