Ryan Cairns secured his maiden Sunshine Tour title the flashy way on Friday when he equalled the course record in regulation and then chipped in for eagle on the first playoff hole to win the Vodacom Origins of Golf event in Knysna.
The 28-year-old Zimbabwean defeated Vaughn Groenewald in the playoff after the pair had finished level on 15 under par, three strokes clear of Jake Redman and Louis de Jager who shared third.
“With Vaughn in close on the playoff hole, I knew I had to hit that shot properly,” Cairns said.
“It was actually a tight lie and I was going to putt it because I didn't want to duff it in front of all of those people.”
He didn't, and his celebration signalled the relief of a man who had battled to get his game back to the highest level.
His victory was set up by a round crafted by the highest quality of golf as he made 10 birdies to match the 10-under-par course record set the previous day by rookie Drikus van der Walt – coincidentally a playing partner for Cairns in the final round.
“I was playing great golf, and Drikus and Ruan de Swardt were great company. It took two rookies to keep me relaxed,” Cairns said.
“I felt very comfortable, but on the last hole, I got a little ahead of myself with my approach, and I nearly duffed it trying to go for the eagle and the course record.”
Cairns had to control the adrenaline while he waited to see whether Groenewald was going to force the playoff.
“I was ready. I said to my caddie, when Vaughn was on, 17 that he was going to get to 15 under,” he said.
“I had this feeling I would have to play more golf.”
Groenewald will look back on the 14th with a degree of regret. He made his only bogey during a round of 66, but having got so close, even that single dropped shot would have felt painful.
“However, I have to be happy that I'm playing well, and things are going in the right direction,” Groenewald said.
Redman led going into the final round, and while he was disappointed with his final 71, he did better than he did in the last two tournaments when he was in contention but fired a pair of 77s to crash out.
De Jager, who won the 2009 Suncoast Classic, finished with a flourish as he eagled the 18th for a closing 67. – Sapa