Thomas Bjorn had two eagles in his last nine holes, one brilliant and one a bit lucky, to finish with a 7-under-par 65 and win the Nedbank Golf Challenge on Sunday.
Overnight leader Jamie Donaldson of Wales lost his three-shot advantage in a final-round 70 and tied for second with Sergio Garcia (65).
Bjorn’s victory was hailed by fans in the galleries on No. 18, waving streams of South African flags in late afternoon sunshine on a day dedicated in the country to prayer and reflection following the death of former President Nelson Mandela.
Bjorn’s 5-iron into No. 10 set up the first eagle to move past Donaldson. The Dane had his second on No. 14 after his approach hit a bunker and rolled up onto the green.
”They were two big moments,” Bjorn said. ”Obviously, having two eagles on the back nine on a Sunday doesn’t happen very often. The shot into 14 was a bit fortunate, but that’s what happens when you win golf tournaments, I guess.”
The $1.25 million winner’s check at Sun City marks the 42-year-old Bjorn’s biggest prize and his 15th European Tour title.
Tournament members stood for a rendition of the South African anthem at the end of the event.
”I think to the whole world, he was just an inspiration to human beings. He was a great man,” Bjorn said of Mandela at the trophy presentation. ”To see what one man can do, it’s an inspiration to all of us. If we all just did a bit more, this world would be a better place.”
Donaldson was attempting to become the first debut winner at Sun City since Zimbabwe’s Mark McNulty in 1986. But he bogeyed No. 9 and couldn’t make any more birdies until No. 17.
Garcia dropped a shot on No. 16 after a run of four straight birdies at the end of his front nine, allowing Bjorn to bogey the last at Gary Player Country Club and still win.
FedEx Cup and European money list winner Henrik Stenson was fourth after his 67 in the No. 3-ranked Swede’s first tournament back since ending last season as the world’s best player.
Brendon de Jonge (66) was fifth and Charl Schwartzel (66) finished sixth, the highest placed South African. Ryan Moore of the United States, another Sun City rookie, was in contention through three rounds before a 73 on Sunday led to a tie for seventh with U.S. Open champion Justin Rose.
Home favorite and three-time champion Ernie Els had to deal with news of Mandela’s passing on Thursday and the death of his former psychological coach on Saturday. He finished with a second straight 77 and second from last in the expanded 30-man field.
This is the first year the Nedbank has been part of the European Tour’s schedule.