South African Open
South African Open
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McNulty wins as Rose is 2nd again

Zimbabwe’s Mark McNulty holed a stunning 25-foot par putt on the 72nd hole of the Mercedes Benz South African Open at the East London Golf Club on Sunday, to capture the title on eight-under par 280, one stroke clear of Englishman Justin Rose and South Africa’s Roger Wessels.

McNulty hat trick of victories since November last year brings his total of professional wins to 50 worldwide. He claimed the Zimbabwean Open last year and then won the South African Masters at the Wild Coast a fortnight ago.

The 47-year-old went toe-to-toe with 20-year-old Rose, playing in the group ahead of Wessels and overnight leader Hennie Otto. On a dramatic day with a gusting westerly wind, the lead was never secure with McNulty posting a one-under round of 71 on the day to claim his 16th European Tour title and his first since the Volvo Masters in 1996.

“When I stood over the chip on 18 I knew I had to hole the putt, whatever the distance,” McNulty said. “I didn’t make a good chip but standing over the putt I got into the frame of mind that I was not going to miss. I was at ease in my mind.

“I’m delighted, but it was a tough day out there and because of the direction of the wind I knew that holes seven through 13 were going to be a test. You plan the holes in your mind but it went all awry because I was bogeying holes I should have parred and birdying holes I should have bogeyed.

“Standing on 13 I realised the game was on and my mind really started to click in. Coming down 12 I was screaming at myself to get my mind right. The pressure makes it so special – it’s all about the challenge.”

Rose, also starting the day at seven-under, went out in one-under 35, but a miserable chip and three putt on the par-three 10th followed by a bogey on the par-four 12th proved to be his undoing. Despite a 25-foot birdie on the 15th, Rose needed to drain his 15-foot putt for birdie on the 18th after McNulty’s miraculous putt, but he left it out right.

He has now finished second in his last two tournaments on the European Tour, after losing out to Adam Scott at the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Houghton last week.

“I always knew I had to make birdie on the last because I thought Roger (Wessels) was still at eight-under coming down 18,” Rose said. “But I’m happy because I reaffirmed this week that my game is consistent.

“We’ve played on two of the most contrasting courses in the last 14 days and I haven’t posted an over par round yet. I don’t think I’ve been over par for a tournament since Germany in August.

“I just need to hole that one putt when it really matters, but I still think I played well under pressure and need a little luck. As long as I keep these levels of consistency I won’t put pressure on myself.”

Otto posted a disappointing five-over par 77 to drop to fourth, but the man who led for three days showed great guts on a day when little went his way. He sank some clutch par putts but battled off the tee to put himself into birdie making positions.

Wessels looked to be the man to watch coming down the stretch but a brace of birdies at the 16th and 18th (admittedly when he was firing for a birdie from a lie in a fairway divot) ended his challenge in disappointing fashion.

Rose now heads for Perth for the Heineken Classic after a successful sojourn in South Africa while McNulty is off to Sun City for the Dimension Data Pro-Am. The Zimbabwean has also moved into top spot on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit with earnings of just over one and a half million rand.

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