The way things are going, the world of golf is going to have to get used to spelling Christiaan Bezuidenhout. Seven days on from winning last week’s Alfred Dunhill Championship, the 26-year-old South African added his national title to an already burgeoning resume with victory in the South African Open at Sun City. In what was the 110th playing of golf’s second-oldest championship, Bezuidenhout strolled home, his 18-under-par 270 a comfortable five shots clear of runner-up Jamie Donaldson. Another South African, the increasingly impressive Dylan Frittelli, was third, two shots further away from the new champion.
There were few moments of real anxiety for Bezuidenhout, but his closing 69 wasn’t quite devoid of stress. The 18-foot putt he holed for bogey on the par-4 eighth on the Gary Player County Club, after his approach had found the water fronting the putting surface, was clearly a vital thrust. Having started the final round five shots ahead of Donaldson, Bezuidenhout had already seen his lead shrink by one before what he later acknowledged was the turning point of his day.
The same could be said of the trio of birdies with which he welcomed the back nine, a run that restored his original edge and afforded him the luxury of a wobble on the penultimate hole. A fortunate ricochet off a cartpath saved his errant drive from almost certain oblivion in the African bush. But there were shots to spare as pars on the closing two holes clinched the victory for the now three-time winner on the European Tour.
“It’s unbelievable to stand here with an Open win,” said Bezuidenhout, who earned €160,889 and moved to fifth on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai points list, the year-long competition wrapping up at this week’s DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. “It’s any South African golfer’s dream to win a national tournament. It’s unreal. I fought hard today. The front nine, things didn’t really go my way and I just dug deep to come out with a win today. The birdies at 10, 11 and 12 were massive. I have to say, the second putt on 11 was huge and obviously the putt on 12 was a bonus, I just tried to get it close inside a couple of feet and made it. I knew I had to make pars coming in, and I did it. I’m really, really chuffed to stand here as a winner.”
There was pleasure, too, for Donaldson. Plagued by injury during the past couple of years, this was the 45-year-old’s highest finish on the European Tour since he won the 2014 Czech Masters. But this return to something approaching former glories wasn’t a complete surprise. A tie for third at the recent Cyprus Open hinted at better things to come for the Welshman, whose 4&3 victory over former PGA champion Keegan Bradley at the 2014 Ryder Cup clinched victory for the European side.