England’s Chris Paisley admitted he surprised himself after “playing out of his skin” to claim his first European Tour title in the BMW SA Open.
Paisley carded a flawless closing 66 at Glendower Country Club in Johannesburg to finish 21 under par, three shots ahead of home favourite Branden Grace.
Grace started the final round a shot behind Paisley, but birdied the opening hole and holed from 15 feet for eagle on the second to jump into the lead.
However, the 29-year-old South African then ran up a double bogey on the sixth after failing to get out of a greenside bunker at the first attempt and Paisley, who had birdied the second and fourth, picked up another shot on the seventh to move three clear.
The 31-year-old from Hexham, whose wife Keri was standing in for his regular caddie, also birdied the 10th to increase his lead and Grace’s chances effectively disappeared when he found water off the tee on the 12th.
Grace, who became the first man to shoot 62 in a major in last year’s Open Championship, bounced back in style with an eagle from three feet on the par-five 13th, but playing partner Paisley birdied the same hole and also matched Grace’s birdie on the 15th.
“I still just can’t believe it to be honest,” Paisley said at the prize-giving ceremony. “Going head to head against Branden in his home country with pretty much everyone in the crowd on his side was tough, but I just played great.
“I played out of my skin – I didn’t even think I was capable of playing that well to be honest and to come out on top is amazing.”
Speaking about his wife, Paisley – who will climb from 289th in the world to a career-high just outside the top 120 – added: “I just can’t say enough about how good of a job she did this week – and life in general.
“It’s the first time she’s ever caddied, she never put a foot wrong and I just can’t thank her enough.”
South Africa’s JC Ritchie, who lipped out for an albatross on the 15th in a closing 65, finished two shots behind Grace in third.