Martin survives scare to win Dunhill golf title again
Leopard Creek: Spaniard Pablo Martin survived a late scare to become the first golfer in two years to successfully defend a European Tour event.
The 24-year-old from Malaga also became the first competitor to win the Alfred Dunhill Championship twice as he finished with a two-under 70 for a total of 277 and a two-stroke victory.
Irish star Padraig Harrington was the last golfer to win the same European Tour event in consecutive seasons when he lifted the British Open in 2007 and the following year.
Rookie Anthony Michael, who entered the final round at Leopard Creek Country Club one shot ahead, shared second place on 279 with fellow South African Charl Schwartzel (70) and Dane Thorbjorn Olesen (66).
Another South African, Thomas Aiken, was sole occupant of fifth place on 281 after a closing 70 over the 6631-metre course designed by nine-Major-winner Gary Player and bordering the Kruger National Park wildlife paradise.
Martin was five shots ahead with seven holes left but a series of mishaps, including a triple-bogey seven on the par-four 17 where he found a bunker, saw him walk nervously to the last tee clinging to a one-stroke advantage.
A superb drive from the Spaniard at the par five last was followed by a bold mid-iron second over the water and he two putted for an birdie and victory in the first event of the 2011 Road-to-Dubai circuit.
Knowing Martin was on the green at 18 in two, Michael cast aside caution and tried to emulate the leader from a difficult lie in the rough only to find the water and did well to finish with a par five.
"I started my final round very well with some good putts," Martin said of a sizzling front-nine 30 that included an eagle three at the second, three birdies and no dropped shots.
"The second last hole was a big mess," confessed the Spaniard who arrived in the eastern Mpumalanga province from New York only on the eve of the tournament and did not have time for a practice round.
"But I hit some good shots at 18. It was wonderful to win as I was not sure what to expect this week. I have been playing decently lately although I had a few problems with my swing on the back nine because of the wind."
Michael, who honed his golf skills on a four-year scholarship in the United States, was one-under for the day at the turn but a double-bogey six at 11 proved a major setback and ended two over for the back nine.
After drifting in and out of contention for the 158,000-euro first prize during the weekend, Olesen finished with a six-birdie 66 for the lowest round of the day.