Date: December 22, 2008

Sterne on fire

Richard Sterne claimed his second title in seven days by edging out Northern Ireland&aposs Gareth Maybin on the first play-off hole in the South African Open on Sunday. Sterne, who also won the Alfred Dunhill Championship last Sunday, shot a final round of 66 to finish 14 under par at Pearl Valley Golf Estates as overnight leader Lee Westwood struggled to a closing 73 to finish one behind. Maybin had a chance to win on the final hole of regulation but saw his birdie putt from eight feet lip out, and when the players returned to the 18th in sudden death Sterne produced a birdie four to claim victory. Westwood shared third with Rory McIlroy and four-time winner Ernie Els, who had set the clubhouse target after a scintillating final round of 64. English pair Richard Finch and Chris Wood – fifth in the Open as an amateur in July – and South African duo Branden Grace and Retief Goosen were a shot further back on 12-under. Sterne was delighted to get his name alongside the former winners of the world&aposs second oldest Open championship. “The SA Open is so prestigious and the names on the trophy are just unbelievable,” he said. “To be on there has always been a dream and a goal. I may need to set a few new goals after this one.” The 27-year-old added: “I made a good save on the first hole today from around 15 feet for par and I think that&aposs what kept me in the tournament.” “That was just a massive putt right there. I was quite surprised to see that no one was running away with it.” “Obviously Ernie made a big move, but going into my back nine I just said that if could just get to 14 or 15 under, you never know what can happen coming down the stretch.” Reflecting on his birdie putt to win in regulation, Maybin said: “I just couldn&apost keep it straight to be honest. I had a reasonable putt, but just lagged it a little bit.” “Obviously I just came up a little short, but all in all I&aposm very happy with myself and the way I held up.” Earlier in the day, a poor start by Westwood blew the tournament wide open after he recorded four bogeys in his first eight holes. A poor start proved costly too for McIlroy after he began with double bogeys on the first and second, but he was faultless thereafter with four birdies and an eagle to cement his place in the world&aposs top 50 and secure his Masters debut next April. He said: “It&aposs obviously very nice [to be playing in the Masters].” “It&aposs been an absolutely great year and to get to play at Augusta in my second season, making the top 50 in the world and staying there, I had to go out this week and I played pretty well and I did that.” “I&aposm over the moon.” World No.8 Henrik Stenson, the highest ranked player in the field, ended with a disappointing 73 to finish five under. PGA Euro Tour, Fourth Round of the South African Open Championship, Paarl -14: Richard Sterne 72 69 67 66 (won by playoff), Gareth Maybin 66 69 69 70 -13: Ernie Els 67 67 77 64, Rory McIlroy 70 68 67 70, Lee Westwood 66 68 68 73 -12: Richard Finch 69 70 71 66, Retief Goosen 70 66 69 71, Branden Grace 69 67 73 67, Chris Wood 68 69 71 68 -11: Trevor Immelman 69 71 70 67 -10: Michael Hoey 70 66 73 69, Rory Sabbatini 66 71 74 67, Fabrizio Zanotti 64 72 73 69 -9: David Frost 68 72 71 68, Michael Lorenzo-Vera 67 65 72 75, Ross McGowan 66 70 71 72, Damien McGrane 70 64 72 73, Ake Nilsson 66 72 72 69