Daniel van Tonder secured his first European Tour title at the Kenya Savannah Classic supported by Absa after defeating Jazz Janewattananond with a birdie on the third play-off hole at Karen Country Club.
The 30-year-old South African posted a closing seven under par round of 64 to join Thailand’s Janewattananond on 21 under par and after both players parred the first two trips back down the 18th hole, it was third time lucky for van Tonder as he converted his short birdie putt following a sublime approach.
He was eight under par after 13 holes following five gains in a row from the ninth hole, but back-to-back bogeys at the 14th and 15th handed the advantage to Janewattananond. He needed to find something special and he holed a lengthy birdie putt on the 18th to force extra holes.
The victory is van Tonder’s fifth in his last 13 worldwide starts, while Janewattananond secured his best European Tour finish since his tied second place at the 2017 Fiji International. England’s Sam Horsfield and Scotland’s Calum Hill both carded seven under par final rounds of 64 to share third place on 20 under par, while David Drysdale, of Scotland, and South Africa’s Jacques Kruyswijk finished two shots further back in a tie for fifth place on 18 under par.
Daniel van Tonder: “I’ve been working hard. Last year I had four wins on the Sunshine Tour, my stroke average was quite low – then Covid happened and it made everything a bit hard travel-wise and getting in to tournaments. It wasn’t easy. I had to work hard and keep myself motivated. It paid off, so I’m very happy.
“I tried to keep it easy. It’s 18 holes, I needed to 18 tee shots and 18 second shots and try to make it as easy as possible. That was in my mind, just to hit fairways first then hit the second on the green and try and make the putt. The first nine went well and I started the second nine also very well. But I had the two bogeys in a row, two big fliers – I don’t know how – but luckily my wife is on the bag and she kept me calm and reminded me of a few things, and it worked.
“I’m a bit different. I love pressure, if there’s pressure I get more in the zone. For me, I tried to keep it as easy as possible – hit the fairway first, then the second, put the other player under pressure and see what happens from there. I took it shot-by-shot and it worked.
“It was very special (having wife Abigal on the bag). She’s been on the bag for seven years. She’s been with me through thick and thin. It was very special to see the highs coming together and sharing them.”
Jazz Janewattananond: “He (Daniel van Tonder) outplayed me today, for sure. During the play-off especially he hit it closer than me on those play-off holes. But I’m happy with my result today. Last week I didn’t go quite well – it was a big improvement from last week, so I’ll take it.
“When you put yourself in that position it’s great fun, that’s why we play golf, to get in those positions. You put yourself in that position and play your best.
“Things are looking up for me again. I struggled last year during Covid, I couldn’t go home for a year and a month. I got home after Saudi, sat in the hotel for 16 days, walked around for two days and then came back out to play golf. It’s been a tough year, but things are looking up.”
Callum Hill: “All aspects of my game were pretty solid. I didn’t really do too well in the first two rounds, but the final two rounds were great. Lots of positives from the weekend.
“Danny and I had a great battle going throughout the day. Lots of fun, lots of birdies, a bit of a salty way to finish it. Sometimes it goes your way, sometimes you’re a bit heavy-handed on the chip.
“I’ve really liked this course. Everything about it is a lot of fun. It’s a golf course that tests a bit of everything. You have to hit it very straight, control your distances into the greens, they are undulated, the Kikuyu around the greens is tricky to chip from. It tests everything”