Dane Joachim B. Hansen recovered from trailing South African Wilco Nienaber by three strokes with nine holes remaining to win the Joburg Open Sunday and end a 10-year wait for his maiden European Tour title.
Rock-solid Hansen did not drop a shot in the final round and parred the final two holes at Randpark Golf Club in suburban Johannesburg while Nienaber bogeyed both, giving the Dane a two-shot victory.
Hansen holds his nerve
Hansen fired a four-under-par final round of 67 for a 265 total while Nienaber, who won rave reviews since Thursday for his remarkable long drives, finished with a 70 and a 267 total.
South African Shaun Norris carded a 66 for 268 and third place in the first of three tournaments on the South African swing of the European Tour.
Hansen battled to hold back the tears after his triumph, saying it was “a struggle keeping up with the long-hitting Wilco”, who struck a 439-yard (401.5-metre) tee shot during the opening round.
“I am very emotional after winning my first European Tour competition, but this is why we play every week all over the world and endure good times and bad.
“Putting played a key part in my victory. I holed just about every one inside six feet this week, and a few further from the pin.
“It was also important that I did not try to emulate the incredible length of Wilco off the tee, but stick to my own game plan instead.”
Success for Hansen came after a topsy-turvy October for him in which he missed the cut at the Scottish Open, then improved dramatically to share seventh at the BMW Championship a week later.
The first to congratulate the Dane was his caddie Andrew Drummond, who arrived in Johannesburg after a 20-day coronavirus quarantine in Italy.
Then, there was a surprise for Hansen as he stepped off the 18th green to by greeted by his wife Elizabeth and young son and daughter in a video link-up.
One stroke ahead entering the final round, Nienaber birdied three straight holes from the fourth while Hansen could manage only one, giving the 20-year-old South African a three-shot advantage by the turn.
Hansen overcame some stray tee shots to birdie 10, 12 and 14 and draw level with four holes remaining in a tournament last staged in 2017 and won by Indian Shubhankar Sharma, who failed to make the cut this week.
Both contenders parred 15 and 16 before a loose tee shot by Nienaber at the par-three 17th landed millimetres from water and he needed a chip and two putts to fall one shot behind.
The South African bunkered his drive at 18, was short with his second, failed to get his chip close to the pin and two-putted while Hansen parred to emulate fellow Dane Anders Hansen, the 2009 Joburg Open winner.