Englishman Chris Paisley wins the SA Open

Chris Paisley during the day 4 of the 2018 BMW SA Open Championship at Glendower Golf Club on January 14, 2018 in Johannesburg.
Chris Paisley during the day 4 of the 2018 BMW SA Open Championship at Glendower Golf Club on January 14, 2018 in Johannesburg.
Image: Luke Walker/Sunshine Tour/Gallo Images

The lack of a strong international contingent was lamented before the start of the SA Open but as the shadows lengthened here on Sunday‚ another Englishman strode purposefully to the title.

By the time he walked up the 18th fairway for the last time‚ Chris Paisley (and his wife and caddie Keri) followed in the footsteps of countryman Graeme Storm to clinch the title‚ and he too beat significant odds in the process.

Last year Storm was surprised by eventually conquering Rory McIlroy in a three-hole play-off and Paisley was perhaps even more impressive in keeping at bay the advances of South Africa’s red-hot favourite Branden Grace.

Although his wife isn’t his regular caddie‚ she helped calm the 31-year old when he shot into the lead on the seventh.

“I wasn’t going to play this week and my plan was to go straight to Abu Dhabi‚" he said.

"I told my caddie that and he booked a holiday in Germany‚ in the Alps.

“Then I decided to play.

"I told him not to worry I’ll just get Keri onto the bag. I’m not sure if he is delighted about that.

“I can’t say enough of how well she did and what it meant walking up the 18th with her.

“She caddied a few times for me in my amateur days.

"She doesn’t play golf but she knows her way around a golf course.”

When the University of Tennessee graduate started the day one shot clear of Grace‚ it was widely felt that he needed a greater cushion to stay ahead of the South African in front of his adoring fans.

Grace‚ after all‚ widened that base by winning last November’s Nedbank Challenge and once he played himself back into contention with a third round 66‚ his coronation as SA Open champion seemed on the cards.

Although there was nothing graceful in the South African’s demise‚ Paisley who showed great composure‚ played splendidly to go into a four-shot lead by the time he birdied the par-four 10th.

Grace started well with a birdie and an eagle on the first two holes to grab the lead but things unravelled on the par –three sixth.

He took two shots to get out of the greenside bunker before missing a short putt for birdie.

Grace eagled the 13th but his determined playing partner wasn’t letting up.

A nerveless birdie putt on the 15th pretty much confirmed his champion status as he went five shots clear and set him on course for a maiden title on the European Tour.

His final round 66 conclusively sealed the deal‚ finishing three shots clear of Grace who carded a 68‚ while South Africa’s JC Ritchie was next best following back-to-back weekend rounds of 65.

He may have reason to dwell on opening rounds of 72 and 70.

Paisley‚ however‚ hardly looked back once he shot into the lead as Grace’s challenge wilted.

“I just tried to do what I did all week‚" Paisley said.

"I felt comfortable with my swing.

"I putted well all week except in the third round but it is not something I generally struggle with‚” said the dog lover and enthusiastic outdoor cook.

South Africa’s Hennie Otto stormed through the field with a 64 to finish 11-under‚ while tournament host Ernie Els closed with a 69 to be eight-under.

The top amateur was South Africa’s Kyle McClatchie‚ who carded a closing round 71 to finish 10-under for the tournament.