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Danny Willett claims Sun City win

December 8, 2014

Danny Willett spoiled Luke Donald's birthday with a final-round 66 to charge past his English compatriot and win the Nedbank Golf Challenge by four shots on Sunday.

Willett claimed his second European Tour title ahead of Ross Fisher (68), while overnight leader Donald slipped to third in an all-English top three at Sun City.

Willett had an impressive amateur career but had won just once on the tour - at the BMW International Open in 2012 - before his $1.25 million payday at the first event of the 2015 European season. The 27-year-old Willett made six birdies and no bogeys on the final day and finished with weekend rounds of 65 and 66 for an 18-under-par total of 270 at Gary Player Country Club.

''Just one of them weeks where the swing felt good and it came off,'' said Willett, who had just three bogeys all week.

The former top-ranked Donald, seeking a first title in more than a year, couldn't quite celebrate his 37th birthday in style and ended with a 73 with four bogeys. He was six shots behind Willett.

''A lot of positives,'' Donald said. ''It's nice to put myself back in position. I could have played a bit better but I still would have had to shoot 5 under just to tie with Danny.''

Willett trailed Donald by one heading into the final round, but had three birdies in his first five holes on Sunday to surge ahead and he led to the end.

Willett's chasers had a glimpse of hope when he missed the green at No. 14, leaving himself with a tricky chip over a bunker back to the hole. But the former top-ranked European amateur recovered so well that he still made birdie, and Fisher and Donald saw their hopes slip away.

Willett shoots to the top of the new European Order of Merit standings.

Behind Donald, Germany's Marcel Siem was alone in fourth on 9 under, Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat was fifth and Spanish veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez completed a solid weekend with back-to-back 69s for sixth.

Former No. 1s Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer - both former Sun City champions - finished 2 over and 4 over respectively, well off the pace.

Luke Donald holds narrow Sun City lead

December 7, 2014

Luke Donald birdied the last hole for a 3-under 69 Saturday to hold on to a one-shot lead after the third round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge.

Donald had been tied with Danny Willett on the leaderboard before his shot out of the rough and over some trees ended up within four feet of the pin on the last hole.

Donald moved to 13-under 203 overall to sit one shot ahead of Willett and three ahead of Ross Fisher, as Englishmen made up the top three at Sun City in the European Tour's 2015 season-opener.

Willett surged into second after carding eight birdies and just one bogey for a 65. Fisher, the first round leader, is third after a 70.

The former top-ranked Donald didn't match his blistering 63 on Friday, when he also had to deal with a charging baboon on the course, but is in position for his first title since late 2013 and his first on the European Tour for over two years.

''I really haven't put myself in position very often in the last year,'' Donald said. ''So I'm excited to be in that position again. That's why we work hard and that's why we practice so much, and I'm excited for the challenge tomorrow.

While Donald has a good chance at his first Nedbank title, former Sun City champions and former No. 1s Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood struggled.

They are both tied for 24th in the 30-man field at 4 over, with Westwood slipping to a 78 on Saturday at Gary Player Country Club, where he holds the course record with a 62 in 2011. Westwood's chip in from the bunker on No. 14 for an eagle did little to make up for his five bogeys and a triple-bogey 7 on No. 17.

Donald slipped up at Nos. 13 and 17 for his first bogeys since the sixth hole of his opening round. But he rolled in his birdie putt on 18 after the brilliant approach got him out of trouble and ensured he was the outright leader going into Sunday.

Marcel Siem is fourth, five shots behind Fisher and eight off Donald's lead, while South African Louis Oosthuizen pushed up into a tie for fifth to give the home fans something to shout about.

Brendon Todd is the highest-placed American, but is still only tied for 17th after a 3-over 75. The high point of Todd's day was his tee shot on No. 16, which rolled over the edge of the cup and was less than an inch away from the first hole-in-one on No. 16 in the 33-year history of the tournament.

Luke Donald takes Sun City lead with a 63

December 6, 2014

A charging baboon nearly ran into Luke Donald on Friday at the Nedbank Golf Challenge.

The Englishman managed to get himself out of the way, however, and also managed to shoot a 9-under 63 to take a two-stroke lead after the second round of the European Tour's season-opening tournament.

With seven biridies on the first 10 holes, the former top-ranked player was one shot off Lee Westwood's course record at the Gary Player Country Club, giving himself a chance of a memorable end to a pretty average and so far winless 2014.

The only time Donald panicked on the course nestled in the wilderness of northern South Africa was when a large baboon came running toward him as he made his way to his ball. Donald was warned by playing partner Shane Lowry, quickly dodged out of the way and the baboon kept going.

''He didn't really pay any attention to me in the end but gave me a bit of a fright when Shane said, 'Watch out!' They are big and strong and you wouldn't want to mess with them, that's for sure,'' Donald said. ''So I got well out of the way. (I) jumped pretty high.''

Donald's round was four strokes better than anyone else and put him at 10-under 134 overall. He leads Ross Fisher (70) by two strokes, with Alexander Levy (70) a further two shots back at 6 under.

''I felt very in control,'' said Donald, who last won in November 2013 and last claimed a title on the European Tour more than two years ago. ''It's been a while since I felt like that.''

Donald found some of the form with his putter that has been missing since he became the first player to top the end-of-season money lists in both the United States and Europe in 2011. He made nine birdies and no bogeys.

South Africa's top tournament stopped midway through the round for a moment's silence on the anniversary of the death of Nelson Mandela, the country's former president and Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Players removed their caps and bowed their heads after a horn sounded across the course for the tribute.

Brendon Todd of the United States was another big mover with a 4-under 68 to tie for sixth. Tommy Fleetwood moved into a tie for sixth with his 67, the best round after Donald.

Behind Fisher and Levy, Danny Willett is fourth at 5 under and Marcel Siem is 4 under. Fleetwood, Todd, Thongchai Jaidee, Charl Schwartzel and Tim Clark are part of the tie for sixth.

Westwood, a two-time Nedbank Challenge champion, improved on his opening 72 with a 2-under 70, while U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer, off a busy 2014 schedule, slipped down to a tie for 24th in the 30-man field with a 3-over 75.

There is no cut at the invitational tournament, which has a $1.25 million winner's check and is the first event on the 2015 European Order of Merit schedule.

Ross Fisher leads in Sun City

December 4, 2014

Ross Fisher opened the 2015 European Tour season with a 6-under 66 to lead the Nedbank Golf Challenge after Thursday's first round.

Fisher last won on the tour in South Africa in March and the Englishman felt right at home at a sweltering Sun City with four birdies on the front nine and three on the back. His only slip came with a bogey on No. 16.

''To go around here (with) one bogey and seven birdies, 6 under, I'll definitely take that and run,'' Fisher said.

He's two shots clear of a three-way tie for second between South African George Coetzee, Germany's Marcel Siem and Frenchman Alexander Levy.

Siem had the shot of the day when he holed out with an 8-iron from the fairway for an eagle on the par-4 No. 17, his ball taking a lucky kick off the right edge of the green to head back across the surface and into the cup to win him a new car.

Siem said he'd give the red Volvo to his mother.

''I wanted to buy a car for my mom after the good season I had this year and she needs a new car,'' he said.

Defending champion Thomas Bjorn was last after the opening round of the new Order of Merit schedule following an error-strewn 80. U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer, a former winner at Sun City in 2012, started with a 74 for a tie for 22nd. The German had four birdies, but also four bogeys and a double bogey.

Along with Kaymer, there are two other former No. 1s playing the 30-man invitational tournament in the wilderness of northern South Africa this week. Two-time champion Lee Westwood was subdued on one of his favorite courses for an even-par 72. Luke Donald went around in 71.

Brooks Koepka of the United States made a flying start on his Sun City debut with birdies on two of his first three holes. The European Tour's 2014 rookie of the year found it a little tougher later in his round at Gary Player Country Club, and had a costly double bogey on No. 15 to end with a 70.

Fellow American Brendon Todd was 1 over and Kevin Na 5 over.

That wasn't as bad as Bjorn, who had two double bogeys and five bogeys in a disastrous start to his title defense after finishing with two back-nine eagles here 12 months ago for the biggest payday of his career.

Major winners Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa both came into the tournament in mediocre form, but returned solid 70s to give the home country four players in the top 10 alongside Coetzee and Tim Clark.

Scores

1 Danny Willett ENG 71 68 65 66 -18
2 Ross Fisher ENG 66 70 70 68 -14
3 Luke Donald ENG 71 63 69 73 -12
4 Marcel Siem GER 68 72 71 68 -9
5 Kiradech Aphibarnrat THA 72 73 68 68 -7
6 Miguel Angel Jimenez ESP 70 74 69 69 -6
T7 Jonas Blixt SWE 71 73 70 71 -3
T7 Tim Clark ZAF 70 71 72 72 -3
T7 Thongchai Jaidee THA 71 70 71 73 -3
T7 Louis Oosthuizen ZAF 70 73 69 73 -3
11 Shane Lowry IRL 72 72 71 71 -2
T12 Brendon Todd USA 73 68 75 71 -1
T12 Stephen Gallacher SCO 70 73 72 72 -1
T14 Charl Schwartzel ZAF 70 71 75 73 +1
T14 Tommy Fleetwood ENG 74 67 74 74 +1
T16 Lee Westwood ENG 72 70 78 70 +2
T16 George Coetzee ZAF 68 74 76 72 +2
T16 Pablo Larrazabal ESP 73 71 71 75 +2
T19 Brooks Koepka USA 70 74 75 72 +3
T19 Dawie Van der Walt ZAF 73 72 69 77 +3
T21 Martin Kaymer GER 74 75 71 72 +4
T21 Jaco Ahlers ZAF 74 75 70 73 +4
T21 Alexander Levy FRA 68 70 76 78 +4
T24 Thomas Bjorn DNK 80 72 68 73 +5
T24 Joost Luiten NED 72 74 73 74 +5
T26 Kevin Na USA 77 73 72 73 +7
T26 Marc Warren SCO 75 73 71 76 +7
28 Mikko Ilonen FIN 76 78 72 72 +10
29 Danie Van Tonder ZAF 77 78 76 70 +13




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