Martin Kaymer held on through the final five holes for a 2-shot victory at the Nedbank Golf Challenge at a rainy Sun City, earning the German his first title of 2012 and something else to celebrate alongside a momentous Ryder Cup-retaining putt at Medinah.
Kaymer finished with an 8-under 280 ahead of South Africa's Charl Schwartzel in second. Kaymer and Schwartzel both closed with 69s, but Schwartzel's bogey on No 17 after closing to within one eventually gave Kaymer enough breathing space.
"It was always tight. Charl played a great round of golf," Kaymer said, adding he only felt comfortable once his par putt on 18 had dropped to confirm his victory. "I was telling (my caddie) I need a win. I need a win in 2012."
Kaymer was twice in trouble toward the end, first pulling his tee shoot deep into the rough on the par-5 No 14. He blasted out through the trees and into the middle of the fairway and eventually made a brilliant birdie.
He then bogeyed No 15 to allow Schwartzel to get within one shot, but recovered his composure with pars on the last three to close out a first win since November 2011.
American Bill Haas was third on 3 under, a shot ahead of Kaymer's final-round playing partner, South African Louis Oosthuizen, who was fourth on 2 under. Two-time defending champion Lee Westwood's run at Sun City ended with a 73 for a 1-under 287 total and fifth place.
The rest of the 12-man field were all over par through four rounds at a tough Gary Player Country Club layout, where narrow fairways, stubborn rough, gusty winds and - on Sunday - steady rain made scoring consistently difficult. No one shot better than 69 all week.
Kaymer eagled the par-5 No 2, double-bogeyed No 3, then had three birdies before his crucial recovery on the 14th. Deep in trouble, he found his way out of the bushes and put his third to within 10 feet. He made the birdie putt to ensure he had enough of an advantage through the closing holes.
Kaymer's win was his first since the WGC HSBC Champions last year and earned him a $1.25 million check at the end of a memorable year that was still marked more than anything else, he said, by that putt at the Ryder Cup.
"I will still never do a bigger putt in my life," Kaymer said.
He also completed a German double at Sun City this week after Bernhard Langer won the seniors' event.
Westwood's attempt to become the first player to win three straight Nedbank titles ended at the telling 14th hole, where the No 6-ranked Englishman took two shots to get out of the rough, then found the bunker and missed a bogey putt to come away with a challenge-ending double-bogey seven.
Behind him, Paul Lawrie was sixth on 1-over 289, Francesco Molinari and Carl Pettersson were tied for seventh on 2 over and Peter Hanson was ninth on 3 over.
Nicolas Colsaerts, Justin Rose and Garth Mulroy were 10th, 11th, and 12th.