THOMAS Bjorn shot a superb final-round 65 as he powered to victory by two strokes at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in Sun City.
Bjorn began the day three shots behind long-time leader Jamie Donaldson but, with four birdies allied to two crucial back-nine eagles, the 42-year-old Dane blasted past the hapless Welshman for a deserved victory.
Bjorn was denied a faultless card by a bogey at the last, but it mattered little as the European Tour veteran finished on 20 under par, comfortably clear of Donaldson and Sergio Garcia, who also shot a final-round 65 to finish in a tie for second on 18 under.
Bjorn’s win, his 15th on the European Tour, was the second of a memorable day for golf’s old guard after 49-year-old Miguel Angel Jimenez secured victory in the Hong Kong Open earlier.
“This is right up there with the best days of my career,” said Bjorn.
“You never forget your first victory, and then my win against Tiger in Dubai when I went toe-to-toe with him for four days and came out top was special.
“However, winning here in the way that I did against a field of this quality is definitely up there.
“I knew I had to shoot something low and then see what Jamie was doing. It turned out that it was Sergio and every time I saw a leaderboard he was making birdies. I am very proud of the way I played today – it’s a very special day in my career.”
Bjorn’s victory charge was on simmer over the front nine, the experienced campaigner doing what was required to stay in touch with Donaldson and the flying Garcia.
He hit birdies at the second, sixth and ninth but exploded into life on the back nine, hitting an eagle at the 10th to move into the lead.
Garcia pulled level at the summit with a birdie at 14, but Bjorn’s second eagle of the day at the same hole ultimately proved decisive.
“It’s not often you make two eagles on the back nine on a Sunday when you are in contention and it was just one of those days when it was my day,” Bjorn added.
“The five-iron I hit into the 10th was the shot of the week, and then I got a bit of luck on 14 because the ball pitched in the bunker and made it to the green but I still had to hole the putt and those are the little breaks you need to win golf tournaments.”
Donaldson had begun the day well in control at the head of the pack on 16 under but, despite a steady start, soon came under threat.
His three-shot lead was erased by the turn as Spaniard Garcia hit a rich vein of form to pick up six birdies over the opening nine holes.
Garcia shot 66s on his first and third rounds, either side of a 73 on Friday, but saved the best for last as he picked up gains at the first and second before making four straight birdies between the sixth and the ninth.
The back nine was less fruitful for the 33-year-old, with two further birdies offset by a bogey at 16 as his charge fizzled out.
Garcia was nevertheless delighted with his own performance.
“It was a great week and a great final round but in the end I just couldn’t catch Thomas,” he said.
“It was one of those days when I was making loads of birdies but he just kept matching me. I couldn’t have done much more and you have to congratulate Thomas on a great victory.”
Donaldson, who hit the summit after hitting 67s either side of a second-round 66, had been doing just enough to retain sole leadership at the Gary Player Country Club with birdies at the fifth and seventh, but a bogey at the ninth saw him fall into a share of the lead alongside Garcia and then he was powerless to respond when Bjorn stepped up the pace.
Donaldson made just one birdie on the back nine as he went on to sign for a 70.