Sterne emulates Tiger with Joburg win

South African golfer Richard Sterne savors his victory at the Joburg Open on Sunday, having also won it in 2008.

Story highlights

  • South Africa's Richard Sterne wins Joburg Open by a record seven shots on Sunday
  • He is back to winning ways after struggling to overcome longterm back problems
  • Sterne follows up second placing in Dubai to head the European Tour money list
  • Two-time Joburg winner Charl Schwartzel finishes as runner-up

Richard Sterne had spent a lot of time watching his fellow South Africans make it big on the world golf scene.

Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel both became major champions, Ernie Els rolled back the years to become one again, and Branden Grace showed he might be the next.

But far from compounding his own problems, it sparked a burning desire in Sterne to overcome a near crippling problem with arthritis in his back.

"After all the hard work and the time out with injury, I did think whether I was ever going to win again. At one point the pain was so bad that I even wondered if I'd ever play golf again. But now I know I can," the 31-year-old said after winning his sixth European Tour title on Sunday -- his first since topping three tournaments in 2008.

"The only thing that kept me going was all the other South Africans. They kept winning a lot of events and I believed that if they could do it then I could."

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Sterne became the first player since Tiger Woods in 2002 to drop just one shot over 72 holes in a European Tour event when he cruised to a seven-stroke victory over Schwartzel at the Joburg Open, having led from the start.

It beat Schwartzel's 2010 record winning total and margin for the tournament of 261 and six shots respectively, and his score to par of -27 was the equal second lowest in European Tour history.

It put him top of the Race to Dubai standings and put him inside the top 60 in the rankings, and closer to automatic qualifications for the four majors.

"I'd like to get back into all the majors -- that's where I want to be playing," said Sterne, who also won in Johannesburg in 2008 and was second at last weekend's Dubai Desert Classic.

"It's a big year. I've got off to such a nice start so hopefully I can keep it going. I played really good golf today and the whole week.

"That was probably the best final round of my career. It was quite special to finish the way I did."

He carded eight-under-par 64 to claim the €206,050 ($275,000) first prize, having started the day tied with compatriot Trevor Fisher Jnr as they led the field by five shots.

Fisher eagled his opening hole in his bid for a first European Tour title, but fell away with a 73 that left him tied for sixth.

Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters winner, was seeking his third successive victory after two December titles but he could not add to his previous two Johannesburg wins as he ended with a 66 to be 20-under 267.

Portugal's Ricardo Santos matched Sterne's 64 to tie for third with Chile's Felipe Aguilar and South African George Coetzee, who both shot 67.