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McNulty gains hatrick of Zimbabwe Open wins

Mark McNulty put his arm around Jean Hugo, consoling him with the words, "I hope you can learn from this," after a brutal final hole that earned McNulty victory in the Cabs/Old Mutual Zimbabwe Open on Sunday.

With a birdie at the par-4 18th hole of the Royal Harare Golf Club, McNulty joined countryman Nick Price as the only golfers to achieve a hat trick of victories in the Zimbabwe Open.

The evergreen McNulty returned a 69 on the final day to claim a one-stroke victory at 19-under-par 269.

Hugo, the defending champion and holder of a two-shot lead over McNulty playing No.18, saw his hopes dashed by a cruel double bogey.

The 24-year-old Cape professional closed with a 71 for an 18-under par finish, walking off the 18th green at the end of a week in which he equaled the course record and led for three rounds.

Trevor Immelman took third place on 13-under 275 after a 69 on the final day.

But on the 18th tee, Hugo seemed destined to retain his title.

The winner of this year's Finish Open and Western Cape Classic was, at one stage of the round, four shots clear of McNulty.

But two crucial bogeys at Nos. 10 and 13 brought McNulty right back into contention.

At the 18th hole, Hugo's drive found the trees right of the fairway. His second shot, a 4-iron, caught a low branch and dropped straight down into the rough again.

Hugo then placed his third shot short of the green and chipped to 10 feet from the hole.

McNulty had played three perfect shots to leave him an 8-foot putt for birdie.

Hugo missed with the bogey putt that would have forced a playoff, and McNulty made no mistake with his attempt.

"It's shocking what happened to Jean," McNulty said. "I knew, standing on 18, that I needed to play three perfect shots to be in with a chance and I did just that.

"David Leadbetter will certainly be pleased with this," he added, referring to the legendary golf coach who has been working closely with McNulty on some major swing changes.

But the value of such a harsh final round lesson was lost on an emotional Hugo.

"When you're standing on the 18th tee with a two-shot lead and hitting your driver better than you've ever hit it, you don't think about losing," Hugo said.

"Someone came over and congratulated me on the 18th tee. I said to him it's not over yet, and that just proves you can't count your chickens before they've hatched."

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