Sterne clinched his second Joburg Open title by a record-breaking seven strokes after shooting a superb eight-under-par 64 in Sunday’s final round and he said it had been his most memorable finish to a tournament.
“I hit the ball really well and I was conservative so I was never really in any trouble. I made the putts that mattered and I drove the ball really well.
“It was quite special, especially the way I finished today. It was probably my best final round ever, to shoot 64 on the East Course is always good, especially in a final round,” Sterne said after his ninth professional victory.
Sterne’s 64 included birdies on the first two holes, three successive birdies from the sixth to the eighth and further shots picked up on the 13th, 17th and 18th holes. He hit 12 of 14 fairways from the tee and 17 greens in regulation on Sunday.
Sterne, who will become a father for the first time in June, said to win for the first time in four years was a relief after battling a serious back injury in 2010 and 2011.
“It’s very special after all the hard work and injury. You think you’re never going to win again or get back to that level. At one time my three bulging discs were quite bad and it was a year before the pain eased, and for sure the thought crossed my mind then that I might not play professional golf again.
“But the key was to be patient and not come back too early. I tried to come back once, felt pain and immediately took another eight months off during which I did not touch a club. Some people play through the pain, but that can affect your confidence,” Sterne said.
The 31-year-old said the string of three birdies he picked up in three holes just before the turn had been crucial, putting him six in front of a faltering Trevor Fisher Jnr.
“Trevor eagled the first and I thought ‘here we go’. But I knew he had not won before on this sort of stage and I just had to do what I do, finding greens.
“Things started to go my way on the sixth. He tried to finish up and missed a short putt, while I had a sneaky 10-foot putt, which was a really important one to make. To then make birdie again on seven and on eight … I knew I had hurt him,” Sterne said.
Sterne’s victory now puts him into the top 60 on the world rankings, having been 165th eight days ago before his second-place finish in the Dubai Desert Classic, and he will now be playing in the WGC Accenture Matchplay Championship in Arizona from February 20.
He is also now in first place on the European Tour’s order of merit – the Race to Dubai – with just over 450 000 euro from four tournaments.
Fellow South African Charl Schwartzel held the previous Joburg Open records for both the lowest winning score (-23) and biggest winning margin (six strokes), set during his 2010 triumph.