Henrik Stenson added his name to a prestigious honour roll when he became the first Swede to win the Nedbank Golf Challenge at the Gary Player Country Club on Sunday.
Just seven days after lifting the World Cup trophy with compatriot Robert Karlsson in China, the world number 12 lifted the magnificent crystal trophy in a wire-to-wire performance and a nine-shot victory margin .
Stenson’s winning total of 21-under-par 267 is just four shots short of the tournament record set by Ernie Els in 1999.
The big-hitting Swede charged to a four-shot lead with a course record nine-under-par 63 in the first round. He reinforced his dominance with rounds of 71 and 65 and extended his lead into Sunday's final round to eight shots.
Knowing that the field would be chasing him on Sunday, Stenson maintained his composure, blending accurate tee shots with precision putting to stay well clear of the chasing pack.
Stenson arrived at the 18th with a 10-shot lead over American Kenny Perry coming off an early birdie at the second and two pairs (at 10 and 11 and again at 14 and 15) on the back nine.
He pushed his driver too long and rushed his approach over the green. With little control out of the treacherous Kikuyu, his chip shot flew the green, grinding to a halt just short of the opposite fringe. His first putt rolled past the hole, but with a 10-shot margin, a final putt for bogey hardly made a difference to the outcome.
“I’m really happy with this victory; it’s a fantastic way to finish the season,” said Stenson. “I have really enjoyed the week. The greens were in immaculate condition and the course looked as good as I have ever seen it.
Stenson finished second in his debut in 2006 and took fourth place last year.
“I wanted to go one better. I had such a big lead and that took away a little from the excitement, like two years ago when it was just a couple of shots. But nothing takes away from winning.”
“I have to thank Fanny (Sunesson), too. She is one of the most hardworking caddies on the Tour. She loves to win and she loves to push me. This is as much hers as my victory.”
Stenson finished three shots short of the highest winning margin set by Nick Price at 12 shots in 1993, but surpassed the matching records of
Mark McNulty and Ernie Els, who won by eight shots in 1986 and 2002 respectively.
Second placed Perry, although playing in the shadow of the great Swede, delivered the best round of the day.
The 48-year-old American from Kentucky - a three time PGA Tour winner this season and member of the winning Ryder Cup matches at Valhalla - shot from the blocks with an eagle at the second and added a birdie at four to turn in 33.
Perry birdied 11 and 14, closing with back-to-back birdies for a seven-under-par 65 to leapfrog Karlsson for the runner-up spot, worth $600,000.
World number two Sergio Garcio and defending champion Trevor Immelman, the overwhelming favourites at the start of the week, had to settle for fourth and 10th respectively.