Phelan makes hay as Schwartzel shines again
 Kevin Phelan continues to impress in the professional ranks. Picture: David Lloyd /  www.golffile.ie

Kevin Phelan continues to impress in the professional ranks. Picture: David Lloyd / www.golffile.ie

Kevin Phelan picked up the biggest cheque of his short professional career - €15,300 in just his second European Tour appearance in the paid ranks - as Charl Schwartzel retained the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.

The Waterford star closed with a two over 74 to finish tied for 24th on two under par, a distant 15 strokes behind the former Masters champion who has now won the title three times and registered four runner-up finishes since he captured his first European Tour title at the Malenane venue in 2005. Leaderboard

Gareth Maybin got off to another horrible start - bogey, double - and made just one birdie before a bogey at the 18th gave him a 75 and a share of 52nd on two over.

Charl Schwartzel has now won three times and finished runner up another four at Leopard Creek. Picture: David Lloyd / www.golffile.ieThe Ballyclare man recovered from going five over after just four holes to card a 71 in the third round but his three over par closing effort meant he earned just €6,150.

It was an even more expensive day for Damien McGrane, who finished 57th on four over after a 74.

The Kells man was motoring, four under for the day and bogey free with five holes to play. But after a dropped shot at the 15th, he finished in a proverbial ambulance with a pair of sevens, a triple bogey seven at the 17th and a double bobey at the par-five last.

McGrane took home €5,100 but had he parred the last two he might have earned more than €12,656.

As for Schwartzel, the 29 year old picked up €237,750 for his ninth European Tour win with six of them coming in his native South Africa.

After a double bogey on the tenth hole of his first round, the World Number 21 went 62 holes without dropping a shot and a closing 67 saw him finish 17 under par for the week, two clear of former Irish Open champion Richard Finch.

“I had that hiccup in the first round through 17 and the first hole, and after that pretty much flawless with no bogeys from there on in,” he said. “Most of the time if you play 60 holes or whatever it may be without bogey then hopefully you’ll win. It’s always nice to get a win and get some confidence up.

“It’s been one of those years where I have played well and just didn’t get the wins. Whenever you win and you’re playing well is great, whichever time of the year it happens. I’ve got two tournaments left and last week I played just as well as this week. It shows that I’m playing nicely and I’d like to see if I can continue.”

 Charl Schwartzel has now won three times and finished runner up another four at Leopard Creek. Picture: David Lloyd /  www.golffile.ie

Charl Schwartzel has now won three times and finished runner up another four at Leopard Creek. Picture: David Lloyd / www.golffile.ie

The former Masters Tournament winner started the day two clear of Finch, who lost his European Tour card after a disappointing 2013 campaign and failed to regain at Qualifying School a fortnight ago.

The Englishman was soon level, however, with birdies at the first and third, only for Schwartzel to respond with a beautiful tee shot to a couple of feet at the fifth.

Both players birdied the sixth and eighth to leave the remainder of the field trailing, but Finch’s first mistake of the day at the 11th proved costly.

A wayward drive led to a penalty drop and, although he salvaged bogey on that occasion, a double bogey at the 14th ended his challenge after Schwartzel had birdied the 13th from eight feet.

“He got off to a fantastic start and mine was a little shaky,” Schwartzel said of his playing partner. “I know with this golf course out of experience that it’s a long way from over and you just have to keep hitting good shots.”

Finch’s runner-up cheque of €172,500 is likely to go a long way towards getting his card back for 2015, while Simon Dyson shot a final round of 67 to finish joint third on ten under, alongside compatriot Ross Fisher and France’s Romain Wattel.