Sensational Chris Paisley Secures Maiden Title in South Africa

By: | Mon 15 Jan 2018 | Comments


IT HAS been a long time coming and for Chris Paisley the dream finally came true in sensational fashion as he won the South African Open by three shots at the magnificent Glendower Golf Club. The 31-year-old Englishman pulled off his maiden win in style, finishing with a round of 66 and a total of 21 under par as he held off local favourite Branden Grace.

It was the perfect week for Paisley, who had his wife Keri on his bag for the first time, and he struggled to hold back the tears afterwards. "I’m just so happy with how the week went and to get the win, for not only myself and Keri, but for everyone that’s stood behind me. It's unbelievable," Paisley said. "I still can't believe it. Going head-to-head against Branden, in his home country with pretty much everyone in the crowd on his side was tough but I just played great.”

Paisley has been there or thereabouts several times and he looked liked he was going to miss out once again when Grace began the final round with an eagle and a birdie. But he kept his cool, knowing that he was playing the best golf of his life. "I played out of my skin. I didn't even think I was capable of playing that well to be honest, and to come out on top in such a wonderful place is amazing,” he said.

Paisley began the day in front but trailed Grace by a shot after the South African’s start and he quickly caught Grace. And when Grace dropped two shots at the par three sixth after leaving his ball in a bunker, a par was good enough for Paisley to move two in front.

He was never in trouble after that, extending his lead to four when he birdied at the seventh and 10th to move to 19 under before his 23rd birdie of the week at the 13th.

Grace got back in contention with a run of bogey-eagle-par from the 12th before moving to 17 under with another birdie at the 15th. Paisley recorded his sixth birdie after another great rescue shot from the bunker at the par five 15th to maintain his four-shot advantage, but when Grace hit his approach to 16th to concession range for birdie, he cut the gap to three at 18 under.

A par-par finish was enough for Paisley to secure his maiden European Tour title, and first since the English Challenge on the Challenger Tour in July 2012.

Paisley also paid tribute to his stand-in caddie, saying: "My regular caddie is getting some stick but I just can't say enough about how good of a job Keri has done this week and just in life in general. She doesn’t know that much about golf but she knows me really well and she knows when I’m going a little quicker than I usually do or getting a bit tight. Coming up the last fairway with her next to me was just incredible."

South African JC Ritchie soared into third place following a seven under 65, which included two eagles, five birdies and two bogeys to finish two behind Grace. Ernie Els finished the tournament on eight-under par, while compatriot Hennie Otto looked set for a course record with two holes remaining as he recorded ten birdies and a bogey.

Otto, winner of this event in 2011, needed to play the final two holes in one under par to set a new record, but a dropped shot at the 17th and a par at the last ended his chances as the 41 year old registered an eight-under par 64 for the day and 11 under for the tournament.

PGA TOUR

WHEN Patton Kizzire first burst upon the scene on the PGA Tour he did so in a blaze of glory, racking up a host of top 10 finishes without quite managing to finish the job. He then endured a couple of years in the wilderness.

But something has happened to the American. He won the OHL Classic in Mexico at the end of 2017 and has now added the Sony Open, after beating James Hahn in a six-hole playoff. Kizzire is now beginning to look like a shoo-in for Jim Furyk's Ryder Cup team.

Hahn shot a 62 in the final round to force his way into the playoff, with both men finishing on 263, 17 under par.

They matched two pars and two birdies on the par-five 18th, and they did the same thing at the par three 17th. But when they played it again, Hahn putted from right of the green to about eight feet, and his par putt caught the lip.

"It wasn't pretty," Kizzire said. "But I'll take it any way I can get it."

Hahn, who won both his PGA Tour events in playoffs at Riviera and Quail Hollow, had birdie putts from 10 feet and 6 feet on the par-5 18th hole at Waialae Country Club that would have won it. He made a 6-foot birdie another time to extend the playoff.

Kizzire had to get up-and-down from a bunker for par on the first extra hole, making a 7-footer to stay alive.

This was the longest playoff on the PGA TOUR since Bryce Molder won the Frys.com Open in 2012 in eight extra holes.

You had to feel some sympathy for Tom Hoge. He had a one-shot lead n the 16th hole, and opted to hit a draw to the back-left pin. He turned it too much and it found the bunker. His next shot got hung up in the rough, from where he chipped that to 12 feet and missed to make double bogey to slip one shot behind.

Hoge gave himself good chances with putts of about seven feet on the 17th and 18th holes but missed both. He shot 70 and had to settle for third place, his best finish on the PGA TOUR.

"This sets me up a lot better for the rest of the year, and hopefully I can make the FedExCup playoffs," said Hoge, a 28-year-old. "More so just the confidence I had to play in the final group and play well today."

Brian Harman was two shots behind after a tap-in birdie at the 12th. But he three-putted for bogey from long range on the 13th, took two shots to get out of the bunker left of the 16th green and had to settle for a 70.

Defending champion Justin Thomas closed with a 68 and tied for 14th. Jordan Spieth finished with eight straight pars for a 66 and tied for 18th, ending his streak of seven consecutive top 10s dating to the PGA Championship in August.

Kizzire, starting the final round one shot behind Hoge, made all pars on the front nine until his fortunes turned on the short par-four 10th. From the rough behind a bunker just to the right of the 10th green, his chip was far too hard but it hit the cup and dropped for an eagle. Then, he holed a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-three 11th to take the lead.

Hahn finished nearly an hour ahead of the last group. He had seven birdies in an eight-hole stretch starting at the eighth to reach 17 under, only to make three pars coming in.

Kizzire saved par from behind the 17th in regulation and could have won with a birdie on the final hole. But from short of the green in two, his chip ran 15 feet beyond the hole and he missed to take par.


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