Clarke denied in Jo'burg by Schwartzel back-to-back

Darren Clarke was denied in Johannesburg as South African Charl Schwartzel coasted to a second successive European Tour victory in his home city today.

Darren Clarke was denied in Johannesburg as South African Charl Schwartzel coasted to a second successive European Tour victory in his home city today.

The 25-year-old followed his one-shot Africa Open win last Sunday with a six-stroke triumph in the Joburg Open at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington.

Ireland’s Clarke, who let slip a chance to apply real pressure midway through the front nine, chipped in for eagle on the last to tie for second place with Schwartzel’s compatriot Keith Horne, round in a best-of-the-day 64.

The notable double, completed with a polished 66, takes Schwartzel to his best position in the world – possibly as high as 35th depending on what happens on the US Tour.

His fifth European win should also lead to him making a Masters debut at Augusta in April. The top 50 the week before the first major of the season all qualify.

He has the talent to go much higher, though. He was 23 under par here and is 52 under for his last 11 competitive rounds.

The margin of victory equalled the biggest of last season and Schwartzel said: "It's been a fantastic two weeks for me. I played good last week and it definitely carried over.

“I played pretty much flawless golf and I don’t know what it comes down to - maybe a good positive frame of mind when you hit a bad shot.

“I’m leading the Order of Merit, but it’s still early days and I think this will get me into The Masters. I’m very excited about that.”

He will now try to become the first player since Seve Ballesteros in 1986 to win three consecutive European Tour events, but the competition in Abu Dhabi will be a lot stiffer.

The field includes eight of the world’s top 14 – last season’s money list winner Lee Westwood, defending champion Paul Casey, last week’s US Tour winner Geoff Ogilvy, Henrik Stenson, Rory McIlroy, Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer.

Four behind at the start of a round brought forward because of the threat of further storms, Clarke could easily have closed the gap to one on the long sixth, but missed from six feet after Schwartzel had made a 25-footer.

The Ryder Cup star then three-putted the next and there looked only one winner after that, but the closing eagle earned 40-year-old Clarke over £107,000 (€120,000) – and an equivalent number of cup points, of course.

Schwartzel picked up £185,403 (€209,000) and so Westwood will begin his defence of the “Race to Dubai” title already more than £400,000 (€450,000) behind.

England’s Danny Willett and South African James Kamte tied for fourth, but halfway leader David Lynn dropped all the way back to 25th.

More in this section

Price info

Subscribe to unlock unlimited digital access.
Cancel anytime.

Terms and conditions apply

Ireland's Top 10 Hidden Gems

Ten of the best golf courses in Ireland that too few people know about.

Read Here

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox