A stunning final round from home favourite Branden Grace left Scott Jamieson having to settle for second spot after a thrilling title tussle in the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa.
Feeding off the support from outside the ropes, Grace closed with a bogey-free six-under-par 66 at Sun City to finish with an 11-under 277 total, pipping overnight leader Jamieson by a shot after he signed off with a 70.
The 33-year-old Scot got up and down from through the back of the green at the last to secure second place on his own, earning a career-best pay-day of around £630,000 in the process.
The brilliant effort catapulted him from 75th to 23rd in the Race to Dubai, securing his spot in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates this week in spectacular fashion.
Jamieson will be joined in that event by 29th-ranked Richie Ramsay and David Drysdale (54th), with Marc Warren agonisingly missing out by one spot after he slipped to 63rd following a disappointing finish in South Africa.
Stephen Gallacher’s season is also now over, but Jamieson has ignited his at an exciting time after producing four polished rounds on one of the toughest courses on the European Tour circuit. The Glaswegian had just scraped into the penultimate Rolex Series event of the year and needed a high finish to have any chance of moving on to the final one in Dubai. That he ended up doing so comfortably spoke volumes for his performance.
A shot ahead at the start of the final round, Jamieson had consolidated his position after picking up birdies at the second and sixth holes before having his first potential disaster of the week as a flyer out of a greenside bunker led to a double-bogey 6 at the eighth.
That allowed Victor Dubuisson to get his nose in front before it became a three-way tie for the lead as the Frenchman was joined on ten-under by Jamieson and Grace as they both birdied the par-5 14th. Dubuisson then bogeyed the next, leaving the other two to effectively fight it out over the closing three holes.
The decisive moment in that stretch came at the short 16th, where Grace rolled in a 30-foot birdie putt after Jamieson, who’d got lucky when his shanked tee shot came back out of trees, saw his chip over a bunker from the rough lip out.
Sinking to his knees, he bit the blade of his wedge in frustration and then had salt rubbed into his wounds as Grace produced his moment of magic to effectively claim an eighth European Tour title triumph at the age of 29.
“It’s a dream come true to win at Sun City and to win Africa’s major,” he said at the trophy presentation. “It’s a very special week, we found out on Wednesday we’re having a boy. I had to stay patient and I had to take the chances when they came my way. I missed a couple of short ones, but I think the big key was the putt on 16.”
Jamieson admitted his initial feeling was disappointment but is confident this performance can help him in his bid to add to a victory in the 2013 Nelson Mandela Championship in Durban. “I’m sure I’ll look back and take great pride in this,” he said. “I’ve played with some of the best players in the world this week and proved that I can compete so hopefully I can take something out of that. Getting into Dubai was the goal coming here. I probably needed top eight to do that so second is pretty good.”
On a day when China’s Li Haotong posted the lowest round of the week with a 64 to finish fourth, Tommy Fleetwood strengthened his position at the top of the Race to Dubai rankings by claiming a share of tenth spot. In doing so, he now only has fellow Englishman Justin Rose and Spaniard Sergio Garcia as challengers in Dubai in the battle to be Europe’s No 1 this season.
It was a frustrating finish for Ramsay as he took 6 at the last to miss out on his second top ten in a Rolex Series event this year. The Aberdonian had been bogey-free until then on the last day and wrote on Twitter: “Headless after that finish. Short game killed me all week.”
Drysdale also suffered a costly finish to his round in the company of Fleetwood. The 42-year-old, who had started the day tied for seventh, slipped 35 spots after coming home in 41, which included three double-bogeys in the last four holes.
In 63rd on the money list, Warren missed out on the final event of the season – Ian Poulter got in as last man – after finishing joint 66th, just ahead of Gallacher in 60th.