A top-class display of patient golf saw Ross Fisher claim a three-stroke victory in the European Tour/Sunshine Tour co-sanctioned Tshwane Open at the Els Club Copperleaf on Sunday.
Fisher began the final day with a five-shot lead but had to endure an impressive challenge from Northern Irishman Michael Hoey and also some pressure from Spaniard Carlos del Moral before posting a two-under-par 70 to finish on 20-under-par and claim a fifth European Tour victory after a winning drought of nearly four years.
The Englishman laboured around the front nine in one-under 35, his iron play and putting lacking the brilliant sharpness of the previous two days, and Hoey closed to within a stroke after sinking a 25-foot birdie putt on the 11th hole, to follow up an eagle on the par-five fourth and birdies at the first and eighth holes.
But Hoey then saw his approach shot on the par-four 12th slide into the water hazard protecting the green, leading to a double-bogey, and he eventually finished with a 68 to trail Fisher by three strokes.
Del Moral twice closed to within two shots of Fisher, but erred crucially with bogeys on the 14th and 17th holes, finishing alone in fourth place on 16-under.
Young South African Danie van Tonder produced the round of the day with a 66 to finish tied in second place with Hoey, taking R1.7 million from his best-ever finish on the summer tour.
Fisher sealed victory on the 578-metre 15th hole when he rolled in a superb eagle putt from 20 feet to give him a four-shot lead.
“I was 263 metres from the pin after a real good drive and then I really ripped a hybrid, probably the flushest I’ve hit for a long time. That was a massive turning point, I couldn’t buy a putt before that, and then I didn’t have to push any more, I didn’t have to take driver coming in,” Fisher said after his triumph.
“I knew patience would be the biggest thing today, just hitting the green and making the other guys get birdies. And Mike hitting into the water on 12 was also a big thing, it gave me a breather,” the 33-year-old said.
Fisher also had to handle the additional challenges posed by almost-continual rain and then a blustery wind.
“The weather wasn’t kind and it wasn’t quite the fireworks and spectacular golf I hoped for. The eagle on four by Mike really pushed me, but I felt like I was giving myself chances and the birdie on seven was a very good one, there were many bogeys there today. I then felt I had some shots to spare because the back nine has been very kind to me,” he said.
The 2010 Ryder Cup player is now back into the top 65 on the world rankings and closer to his goal of making the top 50 and once again competing in the majors and the famous team event between Europe and the United States.
Behind the impressive Van Tonder, Hennie Otto, the 2011 SA Open champion, was the next best South African, a 68 in the final round leaving him alone in fifth place on 15-under.