| Ernie Els hits a fairway shot on way to victory in Melbourne on Sunday. (AFP)
Melbourne: Defending champion Ernie Els won the Heineken Classic by one stroke Sunday to complete his third tournament victory from four starts this year.
South African Els carded rounds of 70, 72, 66 and 65 for a four-round total of 15-under-par 273. Overnight leader and six times major winner Nick Faldo tied for second with Australia’s Peter Lonard on 14-under-par 274.
Lonard, who had a 68, missed a three-yard putt for par on the par-four 18th hole which would have forced a playoff with Els. Faldo, 45, carded a final round of 69.
Five players, Britons Stephen Gallacher, Gary Evans, David Lynn and Paul Casey, and Denmark’s Soren Kjeldsen, tied for fourth place, three shots behind Els on 12-under-par 276.
“I think what I said on Friday was hopefully I would get something going,” Els told reporters.
“That’s what happened. I got something going. It just happened quite extraordinarily.
“Then I got a little bit fortunate with Peter bogeying 18. I am very delighted. I did not think it was possible at one time and I played a very good weekend.”
Els said he had gained momentum with a downhill putt for birdie on the par-four 13th hole, followed by another birdie on the 14th, part of eight for the round plus a bogey on the par-four sixth.
The South African has already won twice on the US Tour this year and was runner-up in Singapore last week. Els also won his last event for 2002 in Sun City.
It was a disappointing end for Lonard, who missed the fairway to the right on the 18th then went for broke with his approach and landed in a green-side bunker before failing to get up and down in two.
“I went at the flag. I suppose smart people will say I was stupid,” said Lonard, who has won the Australian Masters and Australian PGA titles in 2002-03.
“I could have hit it to the middle of the green and two-putted and gone on the next (hole).”
Randhawa joint 33rd
Meanwhile, Asia No. 1 Jyoti Randhawa carded a two-under-70 in the final round to finish joint 33rd.
Randhawa, who had scores of 71, 73 and 69 in the first three rounds, finished tied with five other golfers with a total of five-under-283.
Arjun atwal, two-over-290, ended further back in 64th place in the prestigious tournament.