Westner holds on as Feherty shoots fine 67

 

DAVID FEHERTY overcame the embarrassment of twice having to take penalty drops to shoot a superb 67 in a gripping final round of the FNB Players Championship at Durban Country Club yesterday, but it was not enough to stop South African Wayne Westner from collecting the title and a cheque for £63,000.

Feherty started the day eight under par, eight shots behind Westner and immediately set off on one of the most aggressive rounds of the tournament to finish fourth equal with Englishman Ross McFarlane and Italian Costantino Rocca on 275, 13 under par for the tournament but five shots behind Westner.

A birdie at the third was cancelled by a drop at the fifth but, with his driver working sweetly, and the putts beginning to drop, Feherty collected another five birdies to move to 13 under after 14 holes.

At that stage, with Westner faltering, he was just three strokes off the pace. But thoughts of catching the leader disappeared at the short par three 15th.

A sliced five iron was signalled out of hounds so he hit a provisional to within four feet of the pin. Although the original ball was the found, in play, it was so deep insider the monkey bush, that Feherty had no option but to plan his provisional. He missed the putt and took five.

But Feherty, continuing to prove that his all-round game and his stomach for a fight are back, finished with two more birdies at 16th and 18th, for a round of 67 which guaranteed him a cheque of £17,000 and pushed his earnings for the three European co-sanctioned events in South Africa to £43,000. Not a bad way to start the year.

"I'm absolutely delighted with the way I have played here", he said. "My middle two rounds were a bit on the scrappy side, but overall I certainly can't complain about a second place at Houghton and now fourth here."

Ahead of him, though, Westner found himself engaged in a real dog-fight with his two playing partners, Paul Eales and Jose Coceres. Westner, driving with a new grip, practiced on the range before the final round, picked up a shot at the par five third, but then made three bogeys in quick succession to go back to 14 under.

"The first two went off the tee so well that I said to my caddy we couldn't go wrong. But I think I was a bit premature, because after that I couldn't hit the ball anywhere except into the bushes," he said. "The others got to within two shots and I just thought I had to get aggressive to win it, not just sit back and wait. And things got better."

Westner almost added a cheque for £90,000 to his winnings when he came within four feet of a hole in one at the 15th but his anguish was nothing compared with Ronan Rafferty, whose excitement turned to dismay as he watched his six iron lip out of the hole.

Eales, who plays out of Lytham, was closest overnight, four shots behind. He put together a round whose merit lay in solidity rather than invention. Two birdies took him to 14 under but a missed birdie putt from six feet at the 16th and a bogey at the 17th ended his hopes.

The Argentinian Coceres pushed the hardest with a magnificent round of 65 which included a double drop at, the fifth and nine birdies.