South Africa’s Thriston Lawrence became the first winner of the DP World Tour era after the Joburg Open was reduced to a 36-hole event due to the outbreak of a new variant of Covid-19 in South Africa. 

The home favourite had matched his lowest 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.

Soon after the completion of the second day’s play, it was decided the opening tournament of the 2022 DP World Tour season would be 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. 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 at the first on day three trimmed his advantage, but more dangerous weather swept in at 12.12pm local time. The additional lightning storms and heavy rain left large parts of the course unplayable, leaving officials with little option but to call the result after 36 holes.

Lawrence’s compatriot Zander Lombard was second on eight under, a shot clear of another South African in Shaun Norris and England’s Ashley Chesters in a share of third spot.

The win also hands Lawrence, Lombard and Chesters a place each in the field for the 150th Open Championship next year, with Norris already exempt. Lawrence arrived in Johannesburg as an affiliate member of the European Tour, but after adding to his Sunshine Tour victory at the 2019 Vodacom Origins Stellenbosch, he now has a DP World Tour exemption until 2023.

He said: “It’s so surreal. 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. I had my card on the Sunshine Tour, but I really wanted to move on to the next step. It happened so quickly. There’s a lot of things that could happen next year. You know now you’re on the Tour and you don’t have to worry about invites and it gives you a lot of confidence.”

,”You want to see yourself up there but the last year-and-a-half of Covid it’s been tough, so you sort of see your dreams fade. For it to change this week is unbelievable. It’s also been a lifelong dream to play in The Open Championship and now it’s come true. I’ve never played a Major, and to play your first at St Andrews is an unbelievable achievement for me and I can’t wait – I’m so excited.”

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