SOUTH African Richard Sterne produced a faultless final round to claim a seven-stroke victory over Charl Schwartzel with a tournament record 27-under at the Johannesburg Open.
The 31-year-old from Pretoria, who had not won on the European Tour since 2009, sank eight birdies in his closing 64 to card a new record of 260.
Overnight joint-leader Trevor Fisher Jr saw his challenge collapse with a one-over-par final round. Starting early due to the threat of bad weather, Fisher opened with an eagle on the par-five first but faltered from then on while Sterne remained consistent. The latter collected five birdies to head into the turn at 24-under par.
Sterne was second to Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher in Dubai last week and yesterday’s £176,242 victory at the Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club put him into the world top 64, good enough to qualify for the Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona.
In what proved a close race for second place, Johannesburg native Schwartzel shot eight birdies in his 66 to finish on 20-under 267.
A 64 by Portugal’s Ricardo Santos saw him finish a shot further back in a tie for third with South African George Coetzee and Felipe Aguilar of Chile. Garth Mulroy, Brandon Pieters and Keith Horne had all been in contention at the turn, but were unable to maintain their birdie runs over the back nine.
Scotland’s David Drysdale was the best-placed British golfer, tied for 11th after dropping a costly shot on 16 having had five birdies on the front nine.
Tommy Fleetwood from Southport was tied 13th on 15-under after his closing 69 saw him finish on 272.
Sterne has overcome injury problems, missing most of the 2010 and 2011 seasons because of a form of arthritis in his back, and he now moves to the top of The Race to Dubai with €450,053 (£380,602). He said: “It was a pretty special day. Having won here before I do enjoy the place and that is why I keep coming back.”
Sterne has his sights now set on breaking into the top 50 of the world rankings. He added: “I would like to get back into all the Majors. That’s where I want to be playing.”