Strong finish helps Sterne claim Johannesburg Open in playoff

Updated: January 13, 2008, 11:45 AM ET

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- South African Richard Sterne needed two holes of a sudden-death playoff to win the co-sanctioned European Tour/Sunshine Tour Johannesburg Open on Sunday.

Sterne fired a 6-under 65 on Sunday to reach the playoff with compatriot Garth Mulroy and Sweden's Magnus Carlsson at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club.

That trio overtook third-round leader Mark Murless, who will blame putting mistakes for wasting a two-shot lead and finishing in a tie for fifth at 9-under par after a 73. Northern Irishman Darren Clarke finished with a 68 to take fourth.

Sterne survived hitting into a fairway bunker on the first playoff hole by cajoling a brilliant 4-iron on to the green on the par-5 18th. All three players birdied the hole.

Mulroy and Carlsson hit into the fairway bunker when they returned to the 18th tee and were unable to match Sterne's birdie.

"The bunker shot was pretty impressive, even if I say so myself," Sterne said. "When I hit the ball I knew it was perfect.

"The shot was on and because it was a playoff I had to go for it, even though it was 50/50."

The 26-year-old Sterne had raced through the last nine holes in 31 strokes, finishing with birdies on the last two holes to catch up with the leaders.

"It was a tough day and it took a lot out of me. I haven't felt great the last couple of days and I surprised myself today," he added. "It was close and it needed some special things."

Mulroy was alone in the lead with two holes to play after a birdie on the par-3 16th hole, but could only collect pars on the last two holes.

Carlsson, like Sterne, birdied the 17th and 18th holes to get in the playoff.