With reporting from DP World Tour
Thriston Lawrence became the first winner of the DP World Tour era after the third and final round of the Joburg Open was abandoned due to storms.
The opening event of the 2022 DP World Tour season had already been reduced to 54 holes to allow non-South African resident players, caddies and tournament support staff return to their home countries, with international travel restrictions imposed on the country after the emergence of a new COVID-19 variant.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” said Lawrence, who won on 12-under-par, with fellow South African Zander Lombard taking second on eight-under and England’s Ashley Chesters and South Africa’s Shaun Norris sharing third on seven-under-par.
“I had no control over the weather, or the decisions that were made,” said Lawrence. “I felt like I did my job with those first two rounds, and that was good enough to win the tournament. I also feel like I was in a position to do that again for two more rounds if the weather had played along, but that’s all speculation.
“And I’m not the first person to win under these circumstances. Scott Jamieson won the Nelson Mandela Championship at Royal Durban in 2012, and there, the course was shortened because of rain damage and that still counted.”
Home favourite Lawrence had matched his lowest DP World Tour round on days one and two, with a pair of 65s sending him into the weekend at Randpark Golf Club at 12-under and with a four-shot lead.
Weather delays over the first two days meant that the second round had to be completed on Saturday morning but when the rest of the field completed their own second rounds, Lawrence was still four ahead.
A bogey on the first trimmed his advantage but more dangerous weather swept in at 12.12pm and, with no prospect of getting play completed on day three, the result was declared based on 36-hole scores.
The 24-year-old takes his first win in just his 22nd DP World Tour event, with six made cuts and a best finish of 17th in the previous 21.
He arrived in Johannesburg as an affiliate member but after adding to his Sunshine Tour victory at the 2019 Vodacom Origins Stellenbosch, he now has a DP World Tour exemption until 2023 and moves to the top of the fledgling DP World Tour Rankings with 75 percent points awarded for a 36-hole win.
“I’ve always been excited by the prospect of playing overseas, and, of course, those doors are now open to me,” said Lawrence. “I just hope we can travel soon, so I can take advantage of my opportunities. For now, I’m focused on the South African Open Championship next week.
“I’m just sorry that the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek has been cancelled, because that would have felt like a homecoming for me,” added the man who grew up playing his golf at Mbombela Golf Club.
He also gets to play in the Open Championship, as the Joburg Open was the first tournament in the International Qualifying Series for that major. “It’s a lifelong dream that’s come true. To play your first ever major on the Old Course is an unbelievable dream come true. I’m so excited. As a kid you always want to play in the majors. Everybody wants to break Jack Nicklaus’s record and now it’s my first major and an opportunity in that direction. I’m ecstatic.”