Australia’s Marc Leishman ended a trying 2015 on a high after cruising to victory in the Nedbank Golf Challenge to claim his first European Tour title and complete an Australian double.
Following compatriot Nathan Holman’s win in the Australian PGA Championship earlier in the day, Leishman carded a closing 67 at Sun City to finish 19 under par, six shots clear of Henrik Stenson.
England’s Chris Wood was a distant third on nine under with defending champion Danny Willett, Victor Dubuisson, Robert Streb and Branden Grace joint fourth on eight under.
Leishman pulled out of the Masters in April after his wife Audrey fell seriously ill with toxic shock syndrome, a rare but life-threatening bacterial infection during which she was put into an induced coma. She is now recovering but Leishman feared the worst and was prepared to give up golf to care for their two young
“I’m pretty happy to have this year over, to be honest,” the 32-year-old said. “Audrey got very sick and I lost an uncle who I was very close to. This tops off what was otherwise not a great year. Three weeks ago we moved into a new house, so this will help pay for that.”
Leishman began the day with a one-shot lead and found himself three ahead when he birdied the seventh and playing partner Stenson bogeyed the same hole after failing to get up and down from a greenside bunker.
Stenson bounced back with a birdie from 15 feet on the eighth and both players birdied the ninth and 10th before Leishman, who lost a play-off for the Open at St Andrews in July, extended his lead thanks to a superb approach to the 13th which span back to within inches of the hole.
Leishman, who defeated world number one Jordan Spieth in the singles in the Presidents Cup in October, also birdied the 15th and 16th and although Stenson chipped in on the next, the result – and destination of the first prize of £825,000 – was never in doubt.
“It’s amazing. I’m so happy,” added Leishman, who could reach a career-best 26th in the world when the rankings are updated on Monday. “It’s not very often you can walk up 18 with a good cushion and enjoy it.
“I knew it was going to be a really tough day, I knew I had to play well. Henrik’s an awesome player and I knew he’d make me earn it, which he did. I’m really pleased that I could play as well as I did and have a little bit of a buffer there at the end.
“Golf’s a lot easier when you don’t have to make up lost ground, especially on this golf course where there’s trouble everywhere. I was really happy to not have too many bogeys (just three all week). I definitely found out where the trouble was in the practice round!”
Stenson was disappointed not to claim his first win in 2015,
although the 39-year-old had rated his chances of simply playing in the event at just five per cent after spending three days in bed with the flu.
“I’ll take it, looking at the bigger picture,” Stenson said after a closing 72. “With the chances I’ve had this year, to be winless is a little disappointing but all in all it’s been a solid year and I’ve got to look at the good results, the amount of world ranking points and all the rest of it.
“Of course I’d like to be holding the trophy, and I had a nice chance here. Marc played really solidly and shot five under on a tricky day. All credit to him for the win, he’s a deserving champion.
“I’m ready to get some rest after a long season. I’ll have knee surgery in Orlando on Wednesday and hopefully the recovery will go well and I’ll be ready for Abu Dhabi (in January).”
Wood was never in contention but a closing 68 secured an unlikely third place after he was laid low by heat stroke at the start of the week.
“It’s hard to believe at the moment,” Wood said. “On Tuesday night I was on a drip for 13 hours and there was no chance of me playing, given the way I felt. I was wheeled through the hotel in a wheelchair and tucked into bed by three men – two doctors and a guy from the hotel.
“I was in a bad way so whatever the result I was just glad to be playing, so to finish third is amazing.”
Lyle Awarded PGA Tour’s Courage honor
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The PGA Tour has awarded the PGA Tour Courage Award to PGA TOUR member Jarrod Lyle, who has overcome two battles with acute myeloid leukemia in his lifetime. The Australia native is in the second year of a Medical Extension granted to him due to his life-threatening illness.
Former Open Championship winner Ian Baker-Finch presented Lyle with the award on behalf of the PGA Tour and Commissioner Tim Finchem at the inaugural Greg Norman Gold Medal Dinner hosted by the PGA of Australia on the eve of the Australian PGA Championship at RACV Royal Pines Resort.
The PGA Tour Courage Award is presented to a player who, through courage and perseverance, has overcome extraordinary adversity, such as personal tragedy or debilitating injury or illness, to make a significant and meaningful contribution to the game of golf. Lyle is the second-ever recipient of the Courage Award, joining Erik Compton who received the award in 2013.
The Courage Award includes a $25,000 charitable contribution to be distributed to a charity of the award recipient’s choice; this year’s contribution will be given to Challenge – Supporting Kids with Cancer, an Australian non-profit organization that delivers daily support to children and families living with cancer. Since 1983, Challenge has helped more than 25,000 children and families, improving their quality of life.
“Jarrod is a story of great perseverance and courage in the face of adversity,” said Finchem. “To battle and overcome leukemia twice is a statement unto itself as to his character. But he has also made a significant impression on all of us with his determination to reclaim his career as a professional golfer. Jarrod has a tremendous amount of support behind him, all with their best wishes for his continued good health and success on the PGA Tour in 2016 and beyond.”
In his fifth season on Tour in 2012, Lyle was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in March that limited his season to just seven starts. At the time of diagnosis, his wife Briony was pregnant with the couple’s first child, Lusi, who was born healthy just days later. It was Lyle’s second bout with the disease, having been confined to bed for nine months while undergoing chemotherapy in 1999 at the age of 17.
Schwartzel right at home at Dunhill
Home favorite Charl Schwartzel claimed a fourth career success at the Leopard Creek course in Malelane to win the Alfred Dunhill Championship on Sunday.
The South African took a three-shot lead into the final round and never looked like losing despite dropping two shots in his first nine holes as he finished 15 under par.
Schwartzel finished four shots ahead of Gregory Bourdy in second and five clear of third-placed Benjamin Hebert after a two-under-par fourth round.
Bourdy hit four consecutive birdies before a triple-bogey on the par three seventh hit his challenge, despite a mini-recovery late on when he claimed birdies on the 15th and 16th.
Hebert dropped a shot on the 18th to hand Bourdy outright second. Englishman Matt Ford finished tied for fifth after rising up four places thanks to a round of 70 which left him eight under par overall, while Eddie Pepperell was a shot back.
But Schwartzel eased to victory, mainly thanks to a 66 and 67 in his first two rounds. Bogeys at three and eight briefly stalled Schwartzel’s charge but birdies as 11, 13 and 14 ensured he maintained a comfortable lead.
“It feels good,” Schwartzel said afterwards on the European Tour’s official website. “The way I’ve played the last few years, I’ve been down in quite a slump, I didn’t really see myself coming out and winning.
“But we’ve put in so much hard work in the last 18 months and it’s frustrating when week-in, week-out you’re playing and it feels like it’s never going to turn.
“I guess there’s no better fit than for it to turn around here. This place has treated me really well. I got my first win here and now my 10th so I think it’s pretty fitting.
“Once I saw the board on 16 then I felt comfortable and I knew it was up to me not to make any mistakes.”
Course record helps Pampling qualify for The Open
Rod Pampling carded a course-record 61 Sunday at the Australian Open with a 60-foot eagle putt on the 18th hole that earned him one of three available spots in next year’s Open Championship.
After winning the 100th playing of the Australian Open, Matt Jones also claimed a place in golf’s oldest major in 2016 along with Nick Cullen, who finished tied for fifth at The Australian Golf Club.
Pampling broke Jordan Spieth’s mark at the course, where the American finished tied with Adam Scott for second on Sunday.
The third major next year will be played at Royal Troon from July 14-17.
The next spots available for entry into the field at Royal Troon are up for grabs at the Asian Tour’s Thailand Golf Championship, which will be held Dec. 10-13.
In his career, Pampling owns two PGA Tour victories, coming at the 2006 Bay Hill Invitational and the 2004 International.
Pampling bogeyed his first hole Sunday, then played the next 17 in 11-under, with nine birdies, including 2s on three of the four par-3s on the course, and an eagle. His birdie on the par-4 17th put him at 8-under on the day, level with Spieth’s record, and then the 46-year-old Australian made a 60-foot eagle putt on the 18th to break the mark.
“It hasn’t quite sunk in yet,” Pampling said. “I was just trying to get it close on the last, but it tracked nicely and went in. That was a bonus.”
His runner-up finish last year at the Australian Open earned him a trip to this year’s Open Championship at St. Andrews, where he missed the cut.
Pampling had a mid-morning start Sunday because his 54-hole total of 4-over was well off the lead. He initially told his family he’d be on a plane and probably home in Brisbane, an hour’s flight from Sydney, by late afternoon. But when he finished, he was so close to the lead that he had to remain at the clubhouse in case of a playoff.
“That was the plan … my three kids, they’re at home now, they’re going to be like, ‘Why aren’t you coming (home) now?’ but hopefully they saw the putt and they’ll realize why now.”
He said he’d never shot 10-under in a tournament round. He opened a Web.com Tour event earlier this year by going 9-under in his first two rounds.
Canada goes against USGA’s “single” rule
Golfers who enjoy an occasional solo round may want to consider a trip north next year.
Amid a series of rule changes, the USGA announced that scores from rounds played alone will no longer count for handicap purposes. The change falls under Section 5-1, which applies to “Acceptability of Scores.”
According to the USGA, the change supports the premise of peer review and “underscores the importance of providing full and accurate information regarding a player’s potential scoring ability, and the ability of other players to form a reasonable basis for supporting or disputing a posted score.”
The rule change, though, was met with some resistance from golfers who often play alone but would still like to maintain a proper handicap. Their voices were clearly heard by Golf Canada, the national sport federation of golf in Canada, which announced Tuesday that it would not be adopting that particular change.