Sweet suc­cess for Storm

Sec­ond Tour ti­tle for English­man as he downs McIl­roy in an epic play-off to take SA Open ti­tle

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - JAC­QUES VAN DER WESTHUYZEN

IT doesn’t get more dra­matic than that. Eng­land’s Graeme Storm went toe to toe with the world’s No 2 player Rory McIl­roy – first in reg­u­la­tion play and then in a thrilling three­hole sud­den death play-off – and came out on top.

For his ef­forts, the 38-year-old bagged the SA Open ti­tle and a cheque for R2.3-mil­lion at a packed Glen­dower yes­ter­day af­ter­noon.

Both Storm, who led af­ter the sec­ond and third rounds, and McIl­roy fin­ished their 72 holes at 18-un­der-par, one shot in front of the rest of the field, and were forced to play the 18th hole three times be­fore the English­man pipped the man from North­ern Ire­land.

Af­ter both men parred the 18th the first two times of ask­ing in the play­off, McIl­roy even­tu­ally missed his putt from about six feet to hand Storm the vic­tory. It’s just his sec­ond win on tour af­ter pre­vi­ously cap­tur­ing the French Open in 2007.

“I’m speech­less, it’s sur­real, it’s un­be­liev­able,” said Storm, who had to bor­row money from a friend to play at the Open af­ter los­ing his spon­sor last year.

“I knew I wouldn’t get the crowds cheer­ing my name, Rory’s the guy that got the crowds in, but I knew I’d have a chance if I just stuck to my own game. That’s what I did. It wasn’t my best golf to­day but I hung in there and this is a dream come true.”

Storm is un­der­stood to have taken a job in a Hartle­pool cake fac­tory in the off sea­son in his early days in the pro­fes­sional ranks to help fi­nance his golf.

“It’s been a grind but to be here now as the cham­pion is proof I be­long.”

Last year Storm fin­ished 112th in the Euro­pean Tour stand­ings, one spot and just 100 eu­ros short of re­gain­ing his Tour card. But he re­gained his card for the 12th con­sec­u­tive year af­ter US star Pa­trick Reed lost his Euro­pean Tour priv­i­leges for fail­ing to make enough starts at reg­u­lar events.

Storm played the stead­i­est golf all week, mak­ing just one bo­gey in the fi­nal round and five all week; the other four all com­ing on Thurs­day.

McIl­roy will rue the er­rant iron shot he hit at the par-three 17th, which landed on a slope in the bunker right of the green. He left his sec­ond shot in the mid­dle of the trap and ended up with a bo­gey. It cost him the lead with only the 18th to play af­ter go­ing in front a few holes ear­lier.

Storm said: “That was a ter­ri­ble break for Rory at 17. That lie was so un­for­tu­nate. But what a priv­i­lege play­ing with him to­day; it was un­be­liev­able. And to come out on top is a dream come true.”

Fin­ish­ing third was Eng­land’s Jor­dan Smith, who en­joyed a won­der­ful week at Glen­dower.

Af­ter open­ing with a 67, he shot three rounds of 68 to earn just over R1-mil­lion – no doubt the big­gest pay cheque of his ca­reer. He’ll re­gret the dou­ble bo­gey at the sev­enth, though, which ul­ti­mately cost him a shot at glory. He also made four birdies, two ea­gles and two bo­geys.

In fourth spot on his own was Dean Burmester, who’ll have night­mares about his dou­ble bo­gey at 17. Be­sides that blem­ish, and a fur­ther bo­gey at 14, he played ex­cel­lent golf dur­ing his fi­nal round, mak­ing six birdies.

In joint fifth place were Trevor Fisher Jnr and Thomas Aiken, who both shot 69s in their fi­nal rounds, to be four shots off the pace.

A fur­ther shot back was a group of six play­ers in­clud­ing Fin­land’s Mikko Korho­nen and Italy’s Edoardo Moli­nari.

De­fend­ing cham­pion Bran­don Stone fin­ished down the field in a tie for 31st af­ter card­ing a fi­nal round 69.

PIC­TURE: SUN­SHINE TOUR

CHAM­PION: Graeme Storm cel­e­brates win­ning the South Africa Open yes­ter­day at Glen­dower Golf Club af­ter out-last­ing World No 2 Rory McIl­roy in a play­off to take his sec­ond Euro­pean ti­tle.

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