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Immelman defends South African Open title
by Associated Press

SOMERSET WEST, South Africa (AP) -- Trevor Immelman of South Africa shot a final-round 67 to win the European PGA's euro 718,585 ($904,000) South African Airways Open at par-72, 7,118-yard Ervinvale Golf Club.

Overnight leader Anders Hansen of Denmark, who scored 4-over-par 76, fell away badly over the final few holes, to allow Immelman to retain the title he won in 2003 in a playoff from countryman Tim Clark.

Alastair Forsyth of Scotland and Steve Webster of England shared second spot, three shots behind Immelman, who finished 12-under-par for the tournament.

Immelman emulated Gary Player, who was the last man to defend the title of the second oldest open championship in the world, and Ernie Els, who was the last man to defend a title on the European Tour.

``Those guys are legends in South African sport and it is fantastic for me to have done something that they have done,'' said Immelman.

Immelman's game improved gradually after a shaky start. ``I definitely feel I am a better player this year than I was last year,'' he said. ``I have gotten stronger and have more control over my game and my timing has improved dramatically.''

As Hansen struggled to make anything happen in his round, Immelman surged ahead with birdies at the 10th, 13th and 16th holes to give himself an unassailable four-stroke lead playing the 18th.

He was able to take a bogey at the last for his fifth professional victory and his second on the European Tour.

Scotland's Colin Montgomerie overcame a poor 6-over-par 78 in the second round to finish with two 69s. ``To finish four under par with a 78 in there is pretty good and two 69s at the weekend is pleasing,'' he said.

Immelman credited working out in the gymnasium for giving him the win. ``I employed a trainer over in the States and we have been going at it,'' he said.

``I was 176 pounds going into this tournament, I am down to 165 now, I wanted to lose a little bit,'' he added.

``I really like to feel strong because I play enough golf with Ernie and look up to him being 6-feet-4 and an absolute monster and I know to be able to compete with guys of his stature that I need to get as strong as I can,'' he said.

Forsyth was pleased to have finished second after working on his technique during the European winter. ``I have struggled with my driving which is strange because it is normally one of the strongest parts of my game,'' he said.

``I am not particularly long but I hit a lot of fairways. I missed a lot of fairways this week, so to be in contention is a little bit surprising,'' he added.

Immelman, who grew up around the Erinvale course, felt he tried to process too much information during the first two rounds. ``I have always found I played my best leading up to tournaments and when the tournament came round I ended up getting in my own way because I was thinking too much,'' he said.


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