Johannesburg – Henrik Stenson was relieved to end a five-year winless streak on the European Tour after he sealed a three-stroke victory in the South African Open at Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate.
The former world No 4 last won on the European Tour in 2007, with his world ranking plummeting as low as 230th.
He was 113th coming into the week, and climbed 42 places to 71st in the latest rankings released on Monday.
“I've had a couple of years that were not so fortunate on the golf course, and I’ve fought hard as well,” Stenson after his final round on Sunday.
“I'm very pleased to be able to pick up this championship.”
Lifting South Africa's national Open was a special triumph, according to the Swede.
“I've been asked before to rate my different wins, and it's always difficult, because they always have a special meaning to you.
“I've won some great tournaments in my career so far, but winning these traditional championships has got that extra ring to it. “It's very humbling to get your name on a trophy where we've had so many great champions of the past. Gary (Player) is on there 13 times.
“I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to match that, but I'll try my best to come back and get another inscription in there.”
Stenson's last victory worldwide came on the USPGA tour at the 2009 Players Championship – widely regarded as the world's 'fifth Major'.
He admitted he had started to wonder whether he would ever win again. “I think it's three and a half years since I won the last time – I think it was May '09.
“When it takes that long between wins you start to wonder if there's going to be another one, and when it is coming.
“You've just got to fight hard and put all the hard work in. In this game, if you don't put anything in, you won't get anything back.”
Stenson had to rely on a sponsor's invite to the tournament after 94 events on Tour without lifting a title.
“2011 was just a struggle all the way through,” he said.
“I was not playing well in any department of the game.”
He said 2012 had been his recovery year.
“I've been working hard and trying to get back into a good position in all aspects of the game, working on the fitness side and with my coach Peter Karwin.
“I went back to my old sports psychologist again and was just trying to get things into place and get some nice time to work on the game.”
Stenson also praised the performance of South African George Coetzee, who finished second in his bid to win a maiden title on the European Tour.
“Obviously everyone's cheering for George, for a home-country winner,” Stenson said.
“I'm sure he’s a bit disappointed, but he played well and he'll get that win in due time.
“You have to put a lot of effort in and position yourself well a lot of times. Then you might win three in a row, you never know.
“It’s one of them – he’s going to win sooner or later. I'm sure he would have liked to win this one.” – Sapa