Goosen wins battle of big two

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The Independent Online

Retief Goosen claimed his second South African Airways Open title after a thrilling final-day duel with Ernie Els at Fancourt.

Els looked to have blown his chances of back-to-back victories on home soil when he double-bogeyed the 12th after pulling his second shot into a water hazard.

The South African stormed back with a hat-trick of birdies from the 14th to draw level with playing partner Goosen once more.

But overnight leader Goosen chipped in for birdie on the 17th to edge clear once more and also birdied the last after Els missed from four feet for eagle to force a play-off.

Goosen's final round of 70 gave him a 10-under-par total of 282, while Els' 68 was one of the lowest rounds of the week on a hugely testing Links course.

Darren Fichardt and France's Gregory Bourdy shared third place on two under par, the only other players in red figures.

Goosen said: "Ernie played very well and I got away with it at the end there.

"It's great to win this trophy again, the last time was 10 years ago so it's great to get my hands on it again."

Coincidentally, Goosen also played with Els on the final day of that victory at Randpark in Johannesburg.

"I still remember those shots from 10 years ago, it's hard to believe it all happened again," added the world number four.

"I'm really happy the dates were changed for this event. I'll definitely be back next year."

Goosen started the day with a three-shot lead but bogeyed the first and despite birdies at the fourth and ninth, was only one clear of Els at the turn after the double US Open carded three birdies.

It looked like the turning point would come on the 12th when Els took a double-bogey six, allowing Goosen to open up a three-shot cushion.

But Els, playing only his third event since recovering from knee surgery, birdied three of the next four holes to draw level and looked set to capitalise when Goosen overshot the green on the par three 17th.

"I didn't have much of a shot because my ball was in a bad lie on a hard surface," explained Goosen.

"At best I was hoping to get within three yards of the pin, so I was shocked when it went in."

There was still time for more drama on the 18th after Els played a superb approach to within four feet of the flag.

Goosen's second shot bounced over the green but the former European number one putted up to three feet and, after Els' eagle putt clipped the hole and stayed out, the 36-year-old holed out to claim victory.