Graeme Storm Produces Fairytale Victory in South Africa
Post by Sports Writer Derek Clements
WHAT a start to 2017. What a fairytale ending. The South African Open Championship is among the oldest national opens in golf and seldom if ever in its long history can it have witnessed a finish as dramatic as this, with Graeme Storm finally edging out Rory McIlroy at the third extra hole
When he walked off the 72nd green at the Portuguese Open last year, Storm thought that he had lost his playing privileges by about £100. The former French Open champion was heartbroken. And then came the news that Patrick Reed's status had been rescinded because he had not played the requisite number of tournaments. Storm was back in.
He finished fourth in the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek in South Africa before Christmas and here he was going head to head with the world's most exciting golfer at Glendower Golf Club and beating him. You really couldn't make it up.
Unsurprisingly, the Englishman struggled to hold back the tears. "I am in shock," he said. "This has been a surreal week for me. Playing with Rory today in the final group is like a dream come true. I would like to thank Patrick Reed. To win this tournament is just an incredible feeling. The crowds have been incredible, and it was great to hear my name being called out.
Storm began the day with a three-shot lead, but no lead is big enough when you have McIlroy breathing down your neck, and so it proved. McIlroy raced to the turn in 33 and had reduced the lead to a single shot. The Northern Irishman birdied the first and second and added another at the eighth, while Storm's only birdie on the front nine came at the third. As they began the second nine, Storm was 18 under par.
Tucked in behind them was Jordan Smith, who in successive years has won the EuroPro Tour and Challenge Tour order of merits. Make a note of this young man's name - he is used to winning and it appears to come easily to him. He was utterly in control of his game throughout all four rounds of this tournaments and, in the end, missed the playoff by one shot.
McIlroy struggled with back pain all week but you would never have known it, although he was taking painkillers throughout the final round. He struck the ball magnificently and putted well on these grainy greens.
He birdied the 13th and 15th holes and looked to be heading for his first win of the year until he dropped a shot at the tough par-three 17th. They went to the final hole tied at 18 under par and both men parred the hole to finish on 270. Storm finished with a 71, McIlroy with a 68.
The playoff hole was the 18th. It was shared in par first time around. When they came to play it the second time, both men missed the fairway on the right. Storm found the green easily enough but McIlroy found his ball beside a tree - he hit a high, hooking shot over the hospitality units and onto the putting surface. Both men two-putted.
Off they went to the tee again. Storm found the centre of the fairway, McIlroy went right again.But this time he was slightly impeded by a small tree on his backswing and missed the green, while Storm found the heart of the putting surface. Advantage Storm, especially when McIlroy could only pitch to about 12 feet beyond the hole.
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