Nienaber finishes strongly for 6th in Open de España

Wilco Nienaber put together his best performance on the European Tour for over a year when he closed his week in the Acciona Open de España at Club de Campo Villa de Madrid in Madrid with a seven-under-par 64 to finish in a share of sixth.

It was his first bogey-free round of the week after he opened with a level-par 71, and, significantly, it came in a round when he dialled back his distance off the tee to average ‘only’ 307.5 yards to be 28th in the field in that stat, as opposed to his season average of 323.4 where is number one in Europe.

He followed that steady start with a six-under in the second round, a three-under in the third and saved the best for last with his 64 taking him to 16-under for the tournament. That was three shots out of the play-off between Spaniards Rafa Cabrera Bello and Adri Arnaus, which was won by Cabrera Bello with a birdie on the first extra hole.

Nienaber did play to his strengths despite being a little more conservative off the tee, and he birdied all three par-fives in the final round as he climbed 27 places in the Race to Dubai rankings to 145th – still outside the top 120 who will certainly retain their European Tour cards for next season, but closer to that mark and riding a wave of good form going into the final few events of this season.

George Coetzee closed with a two-under 69 to be in a share of 24th on 11-under, while, at seven-under for the tournament, Justin Walters, Zander Lombard and Thomas Aiken were in a share of 56th. Darren Fichardt was the other South African to make the cut, and he closed with a level-par 71 to finish the week at two-under in a share of 71st.

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