Centurion — England’s Tommy Fleetwood became the seventh player to defend Africa’s major as he won the Nedbank Golf Challenge by one shot, over New Zealand’s Ryan Fox at the Gary Player Country Club at Sun City on Sunday.
With no tournament in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Fleetwood was the defending champion with his victory in 2019.
In the previous 39 editions of the NGC, there had only been six players to successfully defend their title. Those players are Seve Ballesteros (1983 and 1984), David Frost (1989 and 1990), Nick Price (1997 and 1998), Ernie Els (1999 and 2000), Jim Furyk (2005 and 2006) and Lee Westwood (2010 and 2011).
Fleetwood finished on 11-under after a closing 5-under 67, with Fox one adrift on 10-under after a 4-under 68 to close.
— Michael Sherman (@Golfhackno1) November 9, 2022
India’s Shubhankar Sharma was third on his own on nine-under.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout was the top South African on seven-under in a tie for fifth.
It appeared to be a three-way battle for the win coming down the stretch, with playing partners in the third last group Fleetwood, Fox and Sharma all playing good golf and feeding off each other.
The turning point, was on the par-5 14th. There Fleetwood pulled his second shot into a waste bunker just left of the green, leaving himself with not much putting surface to work with as the hole was cut on the left. Nobody seemed to tell Fleetwood how difficult the shot was though, and he promptly holed out from the sand for an eagle three to join the lead at 11-under.
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Sharma would fall out of the lead on the par-3 16th after finding the greenside bunker which resulted in a dropped shot. He would find more sand, this time a fairway bunker on 17, which also meant another bogey to leave just Fleetwood and Fox tied at the top.
Off the 18th tee, there was more drama to follow, as the big-hitting Fox playing for position with an iron completely mis-hit his tee shot, as he was unable to reach the fairway after a 213m strike. That left a blind shot from 225m to the hole, which he duly left short right of the green. An untimely bogey was the result, which handed the title to his playing partner.
Fleetwood, meanwhile, hit a perfect tee shot and had just 189m in for his second. Playing a controlled draw, he found the putting surface but he was some 52 feet short of the hole. That was no problem though as he nearly holed from there, leaving a tap-in for par.