Nick Faldo of England fought off African challengers Nick Price and Ernie Els on Sunday to win the Million Dollar Challenge by three shots and take home golf's richest first prize - $1 million.
Three times the runner-up in the 14-year-old tournament at the Gary Player Country Club, Faldo used a ruthless iron game and some clutch putting to outduel Els, the U.S. Open champion from South Africa, and hold off a late-charging Price, the Zimbabwean who led the world rankings this year and won the British Open and PGA titles."I've always wanted to say this - Sun City, thanks a million," Faldo said after receiving the winner's check and trophy.
His final found 69 gave him a tournament total of 272, 16 strokes under par and three shots ahead of Price, the defending champion who birdied three of the last six holes to move into second place ahead of a faltering Els.
Playing with Faldo, Els pulled even once in the front nine, then bogeyed the 13th when his approach missed the green and took a crippling double bogey on the 15th by having to play two shots from a thicket.
Faldo, meanwhile, recovered from a bogey on the third hole caused by a penalty drop to birdie the seventh and ninth holes, then fired consecutive birdies on the 15th and 16th to cinch victory.
Faldo led after all four rounds and set a tournament record of 14-under-par at the halfway mark with two straight eight-birdie days. His second round 64 tied Lee Trevino for course record and gave him a seven-stroke lead.
But his putting touch disappeared on Saturday, and Els fired a 5-under 67 to pull within two strokes. In both the third and fourth rounds, Els tied Faldo but never managed to pull ahead, and Faldo each time responded with timely birdies to regain the lead.
"I think that was good for me," he said of the challenge from Els. "After having such a big lead, it was good to have the guys catch up and get me going."
Thirty minutes of putting practice before Sunday's round also helped, Faldo said, along with a gamble on the 14th hole when he smacked his second shot through a bush to set up a three-iron to the green that salvaged a par.
Price had a final round 68 to end at 13-under, while Els shot a 72 to end at 11-under and tied for third with compatriot David Frost, who shot five birdies on the back nine for a final round 66.
Also finishing strong to finish tied for fifth place, two shots back, were Bernhard Langer of Germany and American Tom Lehman. Langer had a final round 68 and Lehman a 69.
Seve Ballesteros of Spain, with a sparkling 66 on the final day, surged into seventh place at 281 after a disastrous first round 76. His opposite was Mark McNulty of Zimbabwe, who shot a 1-over 73 to fall back to 282, 6-under for the tournament.
Corey Pavin of the United States finished with a 2-under 70 and a 283 total, five ahead of compatriot Hale Irwin and Colin Montgomerie of Scotland.
Irwin shot a par 72 and Montgomerie a 73, while Vijay Singh of Fiji completed a forgettable tournament with a 78.