South African golfer Thriston Lawrence has won the Joburg Open after the third round was abandoned because of bad weather, leaving the result to be called after just 36 holes of the inaugural event on the newly-rebranded European Tour.
The event had been reduced to a 54-hole tournament late on Friday to help players, caddies and support staff at the tournament return to their home countries, a move triggered by international travel restrictions after the emergence of a new COVID-19 variant in South Africa.
Lawrence had a four-shot lead at the end of the second round, having shot 65-65 to be on 12-under par overall.
He claimed his first European Tour win, earning the No.503-ranked player full membership.
“It’s so surreal,” Lawrence said. “I don’t think anyone thought it would turn out this way, to finish on a Saturday afternoon, but I’m just really thankful.
“It’s a life-changing moment for me. It’s an unbelievable feeling.”
Play was suspended on Saturday morning – with Lawrence having just started his third round – due to heavy rain and the threat of lightning.
Organisers said large parts of the course were unplayable, leaving officials with little option but to abandon.
Lawrence had even more reason to celebrate because a first-place finish secured him a place in next year’s British Open at St. Andrews, along with the players in second and third place – fellow South African Zander Lombard (8 under) and England’s Ashley Chesters (7 under).
Chesters was tied for 7 under with Shaun Norris, who had already earned an exemption into the British Open.
“It’s a lifelong dream, and now it’s come true,” Lawrence said of getting into the British Open.
“I’ve never played a major, and to play your first-ever major at St Andrews is an unbelievable achievement for me. I can’t wait, I’m so excited.”