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Golf: Sterne cruises to Joburg Open title

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

South African Richard Sterne cruised to a seven-stroke victory over former US Masters champion Charl Schwartzel Sunday in the Joburg Open.

Sterne, runner-up behind Stephen Gallacher of Scotland in the Dubai Desert Classic last weekend, fired an eight-under final-round 64 for a total of 260 in overcast conditions at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club.

Pre-tournament favourite Schwartzel, who won the Joburg Open in 2010 and 2011 before relinquishing the title to Branden Grace last year, finished with a 66 for a 267 total over the 6942-metre course.

Chilean Felipe Aguilar (67), South African George Coetzee (67) and Portuguese Ricardo Santos (64) shared third place on 268 in the 1.3 million euro ($1,758 million) event co-sanctioned by the European Tour and Sunshine Tour.

South Africans Thomas Aiken (66), joint overnight leader Trevor Fisher junior (73) and Keith Horne (65) were a shot further back and Italian Lorenzo Gagli (67) and South African Garth Mulroy (67) ended with 270 totals.

The final round at a course in an upscale north-eastern Johannesburg suburb was disappointing with the expected showdown between overnight leaders Sterne and Fisher failing to materialise.

Fisher fell away badly after an eagle on the opening hole and a bogey-free eight-under round brought a sixth European Tour title to Sterne, who has been hampered by back problems.

"I played really good golf today and throughout the tournament -- that was probably the best final round of my career," said Sterne, 31, who missed much of the 2010 and 2011 seasons due to a form of arthritis.

"This is a big year for me. I have got off to such a nice start and hopefully I can keep it going. I desperately want to get back into all the Major championships.

"After so much time out with injury I did wonder whether I was ever going to win again. At one point the pain was so bad that I even wondered if I would ever play golf again."

Sterne laid his victory foundations on the front nine with five birdies -- including three in a row from the sixth -- while Fisher followed his eagle with three bogeys and a birdie by the turn.

A further three birdies on the inward half consolidated the advantage Sterne had created while a double bogey on 11 after a drive into trees and a second into a stream spelt the end for Fisher.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130210/golf-sterne-cruises-joburg-open-title-0