Bickerton handed win by Els' eight on final hole

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The Independent Online

England's John Bickerton enjoyed an unexpected victory in the Alfred Dunhill Championship yesterday after a horrible final hole for the home favourite, Ernie Els.

Bickerton was the fortunate beneficiary of Els' capitulation on the final hole at the Leopard Creek Country Club. The big South African totally lost the plot on the par-five 18th, shooting a triple-bogey eight and twice finding the water as he handed Bickerton a shock win.

"Ernie will be gutted: I shook his hand, but what can you say? I feel bad for him, but he's won a lot and he'll win a lot more," Bickerton said. "I said I was coming here to just enjoy the week, but I felt comfortable throughout and I putted solidly that's how you make a score," added Bickerton, who was the only golfer to be under par for all four rounds.

Bickerton, who had trailed Els by four shots heading into the final round, began the day with an eagle on the par-five second hole, before adding four more birdies and two bogeys to finish with a 68 and 13-under for the tournament.

Having just finished his round two shots behind Els, who had the final hole to play, Bickerton watched as the South African twice missed the green, to the astonishment of the home crowd.

Instead of laying up, Els went straight for the flag only to see his shot go right and find the water.

His second was much better but bounced before finding the water and he eventually left himself six feet from the hole.

Needing to make the putt to force a play-off, Els missed and handed 37-year-old Bickerton the title.

England's Lee Slattery, who was second overnight, shared second place with Els after finishing with a round of 71.

Bickerton, whose career highlights include the 2005 Abama Open de Canarias and 2006 Open de France, said he was surprised by the manner of his victory. "No one can describe the feeling that I've got. At the moment I mean really, I'm in shock," he said.

"I'm still in disbelief, but that's golf for you. Fantastic, but I feel sorry for Ernie obviously. I thought I might have had a chance of finishing second."

Bickerton was not sure what score Slattery had shot as he watched Els throw away the title on the last. He said: "I wasn't sure what Lee had done. This game throws up all sorts of wonderful things and these are the sort of things you enjoy. At the end of the day, I walked in and I thought well, second's a good week. I thought I really had got no chance of winning. It's just great."

The young Dutchman Joost Luiten, who shot a 64 on Saturday to storm into contention, had another thrilling round to end the week with a five-under-par 67 to finish on 11-under and in fourth place, while England's Ross McGowan was fifth. Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke could only manage a final round of 75, to end the tournament in 33rd place on one-under par.