Even in golf, things can sometimes turn out just like you think they might. So it is that the two highest-ranked players in the field at the Steyn City Championship finished first and second.
Perhaps the only mild surprise is that first-time DP World Tour winner Shaun Norris outpaced runner-up Dean Burmester, given that at 85th, the new champion was nine spots lower in the World Ranking. No matter, doubling down on the prevailing air of (near) predictability, the Club at Steyn City just outside Johannesburg produced a home winner. Since 2016, South Africans have won 48 percent of the DP World Tour events played in Africa.
The final margin of victory was three shots, one-stroke less than Norris’ overnight advantage over his countryman. But it was closer than that for long enough. In almost complete contrast to the opening three rounds in which he had dropped only one shot, Norris, 39, didn’t make a birdie until the 364-yard par-4 11th hole on the final day.
From there, normal service was resumed. Three birdies in the last five holes all but restored Norris’ initial four-shot edge, although he also needed some help from Burmester. A two-time DP World Tour winner, Burmester actually led by a shot with three holes to play, only to three-putt the 591-yard par-5 16th for par as a deflating prelude to a double-bogey 6 on the 420-yard 17th that all but ended his hopes of adding this to his victories at the 2017 Tshwane Open and last year’s Tenerife Open.
In the end, Norris closed with a 70 to give him a 25-under 263 total and earned him the €230,000 first prize. Burmester’s 69 saw him pull up three shots clear of the 2021 rookie of the year, Matti Schmid and yet another South African, Oliver Bekker.
“The birdie on the 11th was massive and gave me a boost at a time when Dean was playing so well,” said an emotional Norris, who had his brother on the bag and his wife and baby daughter in the crowd as he grabbed his first title in his 114th career DP World Tour start.
“I’m not sure I can describe how I feel right now. After seven holes today things weren’t looking so good. But you have to expect that in golf. I was bogey-free the first two days and made only one in the third round. So I was maybe due a shaky spell. It had to come eventually. But I stayed patient, and everything fell into place.”
A little lower on the leaderboard, good things were also happening for a couple of other competitors. The highly promising Schmid made a clutch birdie on the 515-yard par-4 18th to climb into that tie for third place and record his highest finish of the season. And, perhaps even more significantly, the massive hitter that is James Hart Du Preez played the last nine holes in four under par to haul himself into a tie for fifth place – easily his best showing on the DP World circuit. It’s a finish that will see him able to tee-up in next week’s Qatar Masters.
[MAIN IMAGE: Warren Little]