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Anton Haig credits fellow South Africans

Anton Haig paid tribute to the inspirational qualities of fellow South Africans Ernie Els and Retief Goosen after chalking up his first European Tour victory at the Johnnie Walker Classic in Thailand.

"Ernie and Retief have been my heroes," the 20-year-old from Johannesburg told reporters after beating compatriot Richard Sterne and Briton Oliver Wilson at the first hole of a playoff on the holiday island of Phuket on Sunday.

"They are awesome players and put a bit of 'oomph' for me to get to the top. They have great fighting spirit and never give up."

Haig will now compete on a regular basis with world number six Els and the eighth-ranked Goosen after securing a tour exemption through to the end of 2009.

Although the win in Thailand was his first on the European circuit, the 1.93-metre (six-foot-four-inch) Haig had already showcased his sizeable talents with three previous victories as a professional.

"Hopefully there will be many more to come," said Haig. "I will keep fighting and hopefully be as good as Ernie and Retief one day."

Haig, who rose to eighth on the European order of merit, is now qualified to play in the prestigious WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio in July and the Champions Tournament in Shanghai in November.

While there were plenty of benefits for the young champion, Sterne was in disconsolate mood.

Successive eight-under-par 64s on Friday and Saturday put Sterne in command but he let victory slip from his grasp by missing an eight-foot putt at the 72nd hole.

"It was close but what can I do?," said the 25-year-old. "I played my best but it didn't go the way I wanted."

Wilson was also less than satisfied after being beaten in a playoff for the second time in his career.

"I had my chances but didn't take them," said the 26-year-old Englishman.

"I hit great tee shots at the 18th in regulation play and in the playoff but was disappointed not to be putting from less than 20 feet either time."



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