American David Lipsky battles to victory at golf's Alfred Dunhill Championship

MALELANE, SOUTH AFRICA - DECEMBER 16: David Lipsky of The United States celebrates his victory with the winners trophy following day four of the Alfred Dunhill Championships at Leopard Creek Country Golf Club on December 16, 2018 in Malelane, South Africa. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images) Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

American David Lipsky battles to victory at golf's Alfred Dunhill Championship

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American David Lipsky battles to victory at golf's Alfred Dunhill Championship

There’s a touch of red, white and blue to the early part of the 2019 European Tour season. U.S. citizens have won two of the first five events, and one leads the Race to Dubai.

David Lipsky will enter 2019 as European No. 1 after winning the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa, the last event of 2018. He joins Kurt Kitayama as the two American winners, after Kitayama’s victory in the Afrasia Bank Mauritius Open.

Lipsky earned his second victory following the 2014 Omega European Masters with a two-shot win over Scotland’s David Drysdale. The 30-year-old Northwestern graduate entered the final round one shot behind ex-Augusta State player Scott Jamieson. A closing 4-under 68 gave him a 14-under 274 total and a check for just under $270,000.

Drysdale picked up $187,000, while South African Zander Lombard and 54-hole leader Jamieson each earned $104,000 for sharing third place.

“It’s indescribable actually,” Lipsky said. “Winning is what we all hope to do, it’s what we practice for, it’s what we all put the time in for – the blood, sweat and tears.”

Lipsky held a six-shot lead at one point in the final round and was still four ahead on the 16th tee. He made double bogey on the par-3 16th but had enough of a cushion over the final two holes. A birdie at the last punctuated an excellent week.

“My wedge play and my short game were really on this week. It’s definitely one of the strengths of my game, but this week, I definitely beat the odds,” he said. “I hit so many sand wedges to within 10 feet, and that’s what got me the win.”

The victory, the 224th European Tour win for a U.S. citizen, marked a remarkably quick turnaround for the Los Angeles native. He struggled in 2018, finishing 95th on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai after two successive top-50 placings. He worked hard since he finished the 2018 campaign with a T-22 finish in the Andalucia Valderrama Masters in October.

“Distance off the tee has improved, a combination of things, the strength coach I have been working with and a new swing coach as well,” said Lipsky, who resides in Las Vegas. “I’ve been really retuning my game, and it looks like it’s paying off.”

It did in South Africa despite it being Lipsky’s first experience at Leopard Creek Country Club in Malelane. Now he doesn’t have to worry about his tour status until the end of the 2020 season.

Drysdale has three runner-up finishes since joining the European Tour in 2002 but has yet to notch his first win.

“Overall good performance, delighted with my week,” said the 43-year-old, who closed with a 5-under 67. “Tee to green last two or three months has been very good.”

Jamieson had pole position heading into the final round but struggled to get anything going. He did well to return a 72 with five bogeys and a double bogey on his card. He’s still looking for his second European Tour victory since winning the 2013 Nelson Mandela Championship.

Oliver Wilson posted a closing 3-under 69 to share fifth place with fellow Englishman Ben Evans. It was Wilson’s second consecutive top-10 after finishing third in last week’s South African Open. Previously, Wilson hadn’t finished inside the top 10 since winning the 2014 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, his only tour win.

Wilson, who played in the 2008 Ryder Cup, is playing a reduced schedule this season after narrowly failing to get his card through the European Challenge Tour. The Augusta State graduate finished 17th on the Challenge Tour money list, with the top 15 earning cards. He made an unsuccessful trip to the qualifying school and, barring a victory, will play a limited schedule this season as a result. Gwk

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