Sterne converts form into victory in Wales
BY Bruce Young | European PGA Tour | 2007 The Celtic Manor Resort Wales Open | Round Four | 04 Jun 2007
25-year-old South African, Richard Sterne, confirmed his growing reputation as one of the European Tour’s brightest young stars when he birdied four of the last five holes at the Celtic Manor Wales Open and then watched as his joint leader at that point, Bradley Dredge, bogeyed the final hole to allow the South African to win his second European Tour event.
For Sterne it was just a matter of time. The momentum had been building over the last few weeks during which time his results had included four top five finishes in his last five starts. Two of those were against particularly strong fields including a runner up at the Johnnie Walker Classic and last week at the BMW PGA Championship when third. His last nine holes of 29, capped off by a brilliant approach to six feet at the last, ensured he would likely be in a playoff but there was drama still to unfold in the final pairing of the day.
One can only feel for Dredge who came here with the expectation of Welsh golf on his shoulders and did such a marvellous job in all but claiming victory. No Welsh player has won the Welsh Open as a European Tour event and with one hole to play Dredge still had a chance to force the playoff.
Sterne had all but completed his round when Dredge stood on the tee at the last thinking at that time he needed a par to win outright. He found the bunker from the tee and could not reach the green. Despite a great pitch, he missed his par saving putt and his and the thousands who were there to support him were deflated.
“Standing on the tee I thought I needed par to win,” said Dredge later. “I thought I’d carried the bunker because it is about 290 downhill but I just caught it. I was in the same place as yesterday but I caught a bit of sand behind it and didn’t get enough of the ball. I hit a good pitch, but missed the putt and that was it. It was about six or seven feet.”
After leading into the final day Dredge had slipped out of contention with an opening nine of one over 36 which on this golf course was always going to lose ground. He roared back into the mix with four birdies in his next eight holes to draw level before the last hole demise. “It was nice to see that the crowd stayed with me and stayed faithful. Playing the ninth I was four behind and I needed I knew to do something because I was just cruising then and would probably have finished about 20th and that wasn’t my intention.”
Soren Kjeldsen also produced a strong finish to share second with Dredge, Mardan Mamat and Mads Vibe Hastrup. Mamat’s round of 62 saw him improve 21 places on the final day, the 62 also including a bogey at his very first hole.
The best of the Australians was Matthew Zions who was 29th while Marcus Fraser and Brett Rumford were 43rd, and David Bransdon 56th.
Many of those who played this week will have made a quick exit from the event and headed back across southern England to Surrey for Monday’s final qualifying for the US Open. This week’s European Tour event is in Austria.