British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen won a three-man playoff for the Africa Open on Sunday as rising English star Chris Wood narrowly missed out on his first professional victory.
Oosthuizen holed from 15 feet for birdie on the first extra hole, the par-4 18th at the par-73 East London Golf Club, to clinch his third European Tour win in the event, which also was sanctioned by southern Africa’s Sunshine Tour. Wood and Spain's Manuel Quiros could only manage pars after the trio had finished regulation play tied on 18 under par.
2011 AFRICA OPEN
The Africa Open is the first big event to tee off in 2011.
Wood shot to fame in 2008 when he was the top amateur at the British Open at Royal Birkdale, where he finished fifth.
He led for a large part of the afternoon and had to watch agonizingly as Quiros closed with three consecutive birdies to join him on 16-under 276 after a round of 69. The 23-year-old had also just about completed his round in 68 when Oosthuizen made eagle on the par-5 15th.
The South African, who carded a 70, failed to pick up any more shots over his last three holes, despite going close with a straightforward chip at the last that ended up two feet to the left.
In the playoff on the 18th, world No. 21 Oosthuizen had the worst drive of the trio, but his second shot landed in the best position -- Wood was more than 20 feet from the hole, while Quiros was just of the green.
Both missed their attempts, which meant less pressure for the golfer from Mossel Bay, and he made full use to win in his African Open debut – an event he chose to play after turning down a spot in the PGA Tour’s season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii because he decided he wanted to kick off his year closer to home.
"The whole day was a bit of a struggle," Oosthuizen said. "I didn't get anything in the hole and made that putt on 15, which helped.
"Then I made this one (in the playoff ) which was nice,” he added. “I hit a terrible tee shot and then hit a full-go sand wedge to get close. Then I made the putt, it was great."
Reflecting on his start to the year, Oosthuizen conceded he would need to improve on his putting going forward.
"It's been one of those weeks where the putter was very cold, but my caddie kept me calm and said it would go in eventually,” he explained. "So I kept on trying and made that nice one on the last which I will remember.
"It's always nice playing in South Africa and you want to perform,” he added. "This week there was a great field here and playing with Retief (Goosen) and (Darren) Clarke was really special. If you look at the leaderboard, there were just big names up there so I think it was a great tournament."
Steven O'Hara carded the joint-best score of the final day -- a 7-under 66 that helped him end a shot back on a 15-under aggregate, alongside defending champion Charl Schwartzel and Jaco Van Zyl (both 70). The Scotsman, who shot 72, 71 and 68 in his previous three rounds, was bogey-free Sunday and flew around the course with seven birdies.
Englishman Robert Dinwiddie (69) ended all alone on 14-under 278, while Shaun Norris, one of the other players that managed a 66 in Round 4, was a further shot back on 13 under along with five others, among them Round 3 co-leader Markus Brier (73) from Austrian and England's Miles Tunnicliff (71).
Northern Irishman Clarke had an impressive final day, ending with a 68 for a tournament total of 8-under 284 and a share of 26th place.