Johannesburg – A delighted Doug McGuigan won the R2-million ISPS Handa South African Match Play Championship at Zwartkop Country Club in Centurion on Sunday.
“This is the biggest win of my career,” said the 42-year-old after he defeated Jaco Ahlers 1-up in the final round.
McGuigan, who vaulted into the top 10 on the Sunshine Tour’s Order of Merit in seventh place, will try his hand in the second stage of the European Tour’s Qualifying School next week.
“I’ve won five times in my career,” he said, “but to beat these guys one-on-one like this is a very satisfying personal achievement.
“And to win at this age Ä although there have been guys who have won at this age Ä well, I’m hoping I’m one of those guys who peak after 40.”
McGuigan got himself on the board early when Ahlers pushed his tee-shot right into the Hennops River on the second, and he was 1-up after two holes.
Ahlers, however, gathered himself, and his short-iron play became more accurate.
He made that accuracy pay with birdies on five and seven to wrest the lead from McGuigan, but his putting when he put himself within birdie range was not as secure as he would have liked, and that short-iron accuracy also began to desert him.
After four halved holes, McGuigan struck on the short 12th with a birdie to draw level.
“That 12th has been difficult for me all week,” McGuigan said.
“I think it was the first time I hit the green this week, but the putt, although it was only five or six feet, had a foot of break in it. I still had to make that, but it was definitely a momentum changer.”
He rammed home the advantage with a birdie on the 16th after Ahlers had pulled his second left of the green.
While Ahlers made a good fist of it with a chip for eagle, he rolled it two metres past and McGuigan cosied his eagle putt close to go 1-up.
“At that point the adrenaline was pumping, and I thought I’d messed up my tee-shot on 17,” McGuigan said.
“I was flirting with the water but I managed to clear it and make the par I needed to stay ahead.
“And then on 18, I hit a big drive Ä I’m not normally that long Ä and it left me with a nice five-iron in.”
Ahlers, however, wasn’t done. His drive had gone right into the rough, and he pulled his approach left behind a greenside bunker.
Undeterred, he launched a Phil Mickelson-like flop shot and it barely grazed the hole and rolled just a metre past.
McGuigan had two putts for the half and the win from the fringe.
“It was probably the longest 35 or 40-footer I’ve had to hit,” he said.
“When it was about 10 feet from the hole, I knew it was going to be dead.”
In the match for third, Merrick Bremner defeated PH McIntyre 6
“It would have been good to make the final, but today was nice,” Bremner said.
“It was a convincing win. I made a few birdies when it counted and didn’t drop a shot today.” – Sapa