Neil Cheetham lost out to home hope Charl Schwartzel on the first hole of a play-off to decide which of the two would win his first European Tour title, in the Dunhill Championship here in South Africa yesterday.
Schwartzel, tipped as the player to follow in the footsteps of Ernie Els and Retief Goosen, finally fulfilled his promise by holding his nerve on a tense last few holes and then the crucial extra hole.
The 20-year-old said: "It's an unbelievable feeling, indescribable. This is something I've always worked for, and to finally break through is an amazing feeling. I could have made it easier for myself, two-putting on 17 and 18. But there is a lot of pressure out there, and it is difficult."
Cheetham was in good spirits after a tournament in which he was well placed to win throughout. Until recently a club professional in Sheffield, he said: "I've had a fantastic week and really enjoyed it. Charl deserved it, because he had a fantastic up-and-down [in the play-off]."
Several players had chances but failed to capitalise. The Scot Euan Little fell back when he plunged his approach shot on the 18th into the water, while another Briton, Oliver Whiteley, missed an eagle putt from four feet which would have put him into the play-off. Els also missed an eagle on the 18th and had to settle for a share of third place.
Cheetham and Schwartzel went head to head over the final holes. The South African missed a birdie attempt on the 17th then drifted the return to the right to drop a shot back to seven under. Cheetham dropped shots on both the 15th and 16th to putts which he left short from 10 feet. But when the key final hole arrived Cheetham sunk his birdie to ensure he would have another chance for his first title.
While Cheetham went down the middle with his tee shot in the play-off, Schwartzel pulled his right. The South African's next stopped a foot short of the water at the back of the green.
Cheetham's approach was short of the flag. The Englishman left his putt 12-feet short, and Schwartzel chipped to seven feet from the pin and holed leaving his opponent too much to do.Reuse content