ONE wayward shot. That’s all it took to derail Scott Jamieson’s bid to complete the Durban Double.
It came at Durban Country Club’s fifth hole, where monkeys roam the trees. Unfortunately for the Scot, it proved a banana skin.
Still five shots clear of the field, the position he’d started the final round, Jamieson’s guard slipped when he sent his drive left into the bushes. When he found his ball, not even Seve Ballesteros could have escaped from where it was.
After making the lonely walk back to the tee, Jamieson had to settle for a double-bogey. It was all the encouragement South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen, playing in the group ahead, needed. As the birdies that had been flowing freely for Jamieson suddenly dried up, the 2010 Open champion sensed a shift in momentum. Out in 32, Oosthuizen birdied the tenth and 11th, the latter taking him ahead of Jamieson. He went two ahead with a birdie at the 14th and, although it certainly wasn’t for a lack of trying, Jamieson was powerless to stop him.
A closing 66 for a 16-under total of 272 saw Oosthuizen claim his sixth European Tour title and a £283,000 top prize, winning by one from Jamieson, who came within two inches of chipping in for the eagle at the last which he needed to force a play-off.
It completed a rewarding week for Oosthuizen, who had been delighted to win an excavator worth £32,000 for his farm at Mossel Bay by winning the team event on Friday.
For Jamieson, it was a case of close but no cigar. His bid to follow up a breakthrough win on the European Tour in the Nelson Mandela Championship in the same city last month fell agonisingly short. Nonetheless, having finished first, third and now second in his first three events of the 2013 schedule, it is shaping up to be a year to remember for the affable 29-year-old Glaswegian.
The draw for the final round seemed to have done Jamieson a favour. Instead of Oosthuizen, with whom he’d played on Saturday, he had unheralded Frenchman Julien Quesne for company. On a sticky but extremely calm day on South Africa’s south-east coast, Jamieson made an encouraging start.
After opening with two pars, he made his first gain of the day at the treacherous third. Sticking to his gameplan, the Scot hit an iron off the tee. It left him miles behind the spot Nicolas Colsaerts boomed his 419-yard drive to in the first round, but that didn’t matter. Despite his chip from just off the back edge of the green taking a firmer bounce than he’d anticipated, he rolled in an eight-footer to move to 16-under.
That quickly became 17-under when he also picked up a shot at the next, finding the heart of the green at the 180-yard par-3 and sinking a 15-footer. The double salvo restored his five-shot lead after Oosthuizen had made the first thrust with back-to-back birdies at the second and third.
Unfortunately, Jamieson then ran up his first double-bogey since taking 6 at the 16th in on day one. From the elevated tee at the fifth, he sent his drive wide into the trees. After considering his options – he didn’t really have any, to be honest – he trooped back to the tee. In dropping two shots in one fell swoop, the door opened for the chasing pack.
Ominously, it was Oosthuizen who was spearheading it. On Saturday, he had been off colour, limping to the turn in 40. The man who won that excavator earlier in the week looked to be burying his hopes in the main event. To the delight of the home fans, however, his hopes had been re-ignited.
When he two-putted the eighth for a birdie-3, a three-shot improvement from 24 hours earlier, the gap was down to just one and it stayed that way when Jamieson, who’d made eagle there on Saturday, had to settle for a par on this occasion after missing a four-footer.
It was the first sign that his putter had turned cold at an inopportune time. He missed birdie chances at the tenth and 11th, by which time Oosthuizen had forged ahead with a birdie at the 11th.
A three-putt for par at the 14th wasn’t what Jamieson needed. Neither was a plugged lie at the 16th, where he dropped a shot. That effectively extinguished his flickering hopes, though he came close with that chip at the last to force a shoot-out.
Paul Lawrie almost chipped in for an eagle at the last but was happy enough with the birdie-3 that saw him sign off with a 70, finishing in joint seventh on ten-under. He suffered a fourth successive frustrating day, yet was pleased with his opening event of 2013.
“I feel I have two-putted every green this week,” he declared. “I think I’ve hit it between six and 30 feet all week, not good enough that you’d expect to knock them all in, but I’ve played consistently and been in play all week.
“It’s been a decent week and the good thing is that, once again, I’ve not putted well but I’ve been able to churn out a decent finish, which shows I’m a much better player than I’ve ever been. It’s the start of a new year so you never know what to expect but I started last year well and went on to have a string of top-tens and hopefully it can be the same again this season.”
Fellow Aberdonian Richie Ramsay was also pleased with his week’s work, signing off with a 67 to finish in the top ten as well on nine-under. “It’s definitely not going to hurt me,” he replied when asked what it would mean to his bid to make the 64-strong line-up for next month’s WGC Match Play in Arizona.
After starting with a “disappointing” bogey, Ramsay, who needs to stay in the world’s top 64 to a make the US event, bounced back with two birdies and then added four more, admitting he was happy with the new driver and irons he had in his bag for the first time.
“I’ve worked out the clubs a bit more and actually hit the ball quite far today, despite the conditions being sticky,” added the European Masters champion. “I hit the irons really nice and I’m starting to get a bit more feel with them. With my old irons, I shaped the ball a bit more but these I’m hitting them more direct. Ian Rae and I did a bit of custom-fitting and the club is going through the turf nicely. Hopefully there is more to come.”
Colin Montgomerie was also happy to “get rid of some rust” before heading into the three events on the Middle East swing, starting with the HSBC Championship in Abu Dhabi, which the 49-year-old described as “an important week for everybody playing-wise”.
Summing up a performance which saw him sign off with a 70 for a two-over total of 290, he was smiling as he added: “I’m looking forward to them, but I’m just not holing the putts at present and the driving isn’t quite right and the irons aren’t quite right – is there anything left?”