Two players were unstoppable on the final day of the Africa Open, with both players forcing a play-off to decide the outright winner of the tournament. Although the play-off was short-lived with Thomas Aiken pipping Oliver Fischer to the post, it was still nerve-racking for everyone involved.
As I previously stated in the preview to the Africa Open since the introduction of the tournament to the European Tour in 2010 it has only had a South African winner and this year was no different. Thomas Aiken has excelled throughout the years on the Sunshine Tour but has never really established himself on the European Tour and therefore the media does not credit him enough for his talent. This doesn’t help when his fellow countrymen are the likes of Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen.
However, his talent shone through on the final day of the Open with the help of his caddie and wife Kate Aiken. Thomas started the day four shots off the lead on 16 under par behind the likes of Oliver Fischer and Emiliano Grillo who was leading on 20 under par after an incredible round of 62 on Saturday to lead going into the final round. Emiliano Grillo’s lead was wiped away within a matter of minutes as nerves got the better of him and he found himself battling just to finish the first hole within 10 shots. The rest of the first nine holes were just as hard for Grillo as another two bogeys saw him finish 7 over going into the turn. But as the pressure was lifted off his shoulders he managed 5 birdies in a row on the back nine to fight his way back up the leaderboard and see himself finish tied for fifth alongside Jaco Van Zyl, Darren Fichardt and Richard Bland.
The man of the hour was of course Thomas Aiken who won his first tournament on home soil due to a play-off win against Oliver Fischer. Fischer missed a chance to win the tournament when he saw his birdie attempt at the final hole lip out and force a play-off with Aiken. Both were capable of showing a touch of class but it was Aiken who certainly showed his class. The two contenders hit good drives on the 18th to position themselves well and give themselves a chance of a birdie. Fischer hit his second shot first but found himself off target and to the left of the green where the best outcome would have been an up and down for par. Aiken followed with a safe shot to the middle of the green with the flag at the back. Fischer had the bunker in his way and very little green to work with so it was no wonder his recovery shot was longer than he needed it to be. Knowing that the tournament was his to lose, Aiken stepped up to his ball and stroked the ball home from 40 feet for a birdie, which deserved nothing less than to win the tournament.