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