Aiken wins Africa Open
Thomas Aiken (Gallo Images)
East London - Thomas Aiken has holed a long birdie on the first play-off hole on Sunday to maintain a South African monopoly of the Africa Open.
No foreigner has won the seven-year event with Englishman Oliver Fisher the latest to fall just short after finishing level with Aiken on 20-under-par 264 at East London Golf Club.
A wayward second shot by the Londoner at the first extra hole landed left of the green and his chip rolled past the pin, leaving him with a challenging 18th-hole par putt.
But it proved irrelevant as Aiken saw his putt stay on course and it had just enough pace to drop into the hole and give the Johannesburg-born star a third European Tour title.
The 30-year-old, who is ranked 113 in the world, won the 2011 Spanish Open and the Avantha Masters in India last season.
Aiken, who was four strokes off the pace entering the final round, said he was thrilled to finally win a European Tour event at home.
"I have been waiting quite some time for this," he said after receiving the trophy. "There is nothing like winning at home.
"East London proves that a course need not be long to be testing," he said of the shortest European Tour layout at 6,064 metres (6,632 yards).
"You have to think here rather than just get up on the tee and belt the ball. The bush provides a real obstacle. It is a strategic course and I love it."
Aiken follows an illustrious list of Africa Open champions with Major winners Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Retief Goosen among previous title-holders.
Darren Fichardt was the lone former champion in action this year and finished joint fifth, two strokes behind Aiken and Fisher.
A horrendous front-nine 43, including a five-over-par nine at the opening hole, put paid to the hopes of a maiden European triumph by overnight leader Argentine Emiliano Grillo.
Leading scores after final round of European Tour-Sunshine Tour co-sanctioned Africa Open golf tournament at par-71, East London Golf Club (RSA unless noted):
264 - Thomas Aiken 66-65-66-67, Oliver Fisher (ENG) 66-63-66-69. Aiken won play-off on first extra hole
265 - John Hahn (USA) 65-61-71-68, David Horsey (ENG) 66-64-70-65
266 - Richard Bland (ENG) 64-69-64-69, Darren Fichardt 66-67-67-66, Emiliano Grillo (ARG) 68-63-62-73, Jaco van Zyl 69-65-67-65
268 - Ulrich van der Berg 66-68-65-69, Lucas Bjerregaard (DEN) 64-67-69-68, Damien McGrane (IRL) 67-69-67-65, Keith Horne 68-69-66-65
269 - Stuart Manley (WAL) 68-69-65-67, Adrian Otaegui (ESP) 69-65-68-67, Fabrice Zanotti (PAR) 65-66-68-70