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Storm stays calm as he holds off McIlroy to win SA Open

It’s been 10 years since he tasted success as a professional golfer, and Graeme Storm made his second victory as memorable as can be as he defeated world number two Rory McIlroy at the third play-off hole on Sunday in the BMW SA Open proudly hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni.

The pair were deadlocked on 18-under-par 270 after 72 holes of regulation play, and Storm managed to take advantage of a wayward McIlroy drive on the third extra trip up the 18th at Glendower Golf Club, making par while the Northern Irishman was unable to get up and down to lengthen the play-off.

‘It feels surreal,’ said Storm many times in the wake of his victory. ‘I had a great battle out there with Rory. I knew what was going to be coming my way. I knew he’d get off to a pretty quick start, and I didn’t play my best golf all day. I just tried to hang in as best I could, but to win this trophy and get my name on it is just a dream come true.’

He started the day with a three-stroke advantage over McIlroy, but, as he expected, the four-time major winner got out of the blocks fast with two birdies in the first two holes to close the gap to one. Storm hit back with a birdie of his own on three, but then came the inexorable pressure of McIlroy pressing for victory.

And it looked to be signed and sealed as McIlroy birdied 13, Storm bogeyed 14 and the pair traded birdies on 16. Pars on 16, and it seemed that McIlroy would romp home, ahead by one with two to play.

But an errant tee-shot from McIlroy on 17 saw him with a horrible lie in the greenside bunker on the par-three. The resultant bogey – and Storm’s calm par, saw matters level going up 18.

‘It was more difficult playing the 72nd hole than the play-off holes,’ said Storm. ‘In the play-off, I knew what was going to come my way. He was going to hit driver and blast his way up there, as he can and I can’t. I just had to stick to my game plan and hope it goes my way. It looked like I just kept it in the same position, and that’s what I was trying to do.’

By the time the third play-off hole came around, Storm’s consistency was enough: McIlory pushed his drive far enough right so that a tree branch hindered his swing enough for him to come up short and left of the green. Storm’s birdie putt grazed the hole, McIlroy’s chip was five feet past the hole, and, when he missed his return putt, Storms tap-in par had proved enough.

‘It was a shame for Rory that he missed his, and a relief for me,’ said Storm. ‘I would have much preferred to have holed the putt, and I’m sure Rory probably thinks the same.’

McIlroy couldn’t have been more gracious in defeat. ‘Obviously it’s disappointing to finish like that but Graeme has played well all week and what a story it for him,’ he said. ‘He thought he had lost his card at the end of last year and there he is now standing with a trophy in his hands after the first event of 2017. I’m delighted for him.’

Behind that duo, England’s Jordan Smith carded his third consecutive 68 to finish in third, while Dean Burmester birdied the 18th to jump ahead of fellow-South Africans Trevor Fisher Jnr and Thomas Aiken to finish in fourth, the leading South African.

Picture of the victorious Storm courtesy of Luke Walker/Sunshine Tour/Gallo Images

Final Scores:
270 – Graeme Storm 69 63 67 71 (won on third play-off hole)
270 – Rory McIlroy 67 68 67 68
271 – Jordan L Smith 67 68 68 68
273 – Dean Burmester 67 70 67 69
274 – Trevor Fisher Jnr 66 68 71 69, Thomas Aiken 67 70 68 69
275 – Alexander Bjork 68 71 68 68, David Drysdale 70 65 71 69, Mikko Korhonen 72 66 67 70, Peter Uihlein 70 64 70 71, Joel Stalter 69 70 65 71, Edoardo Molinari 71 70 63 71
276 – James Morrison 70 72 66 68
277 – Jeff Winther 69 70 70 68, Gary King 73 68 66 70, Laurie Canter 69 66 71 71, Richard S Johnson 69 70 66 72
278 – Jens Fahrbring 68 71 71 68, Tom Lewis 72 71 69 66, Jaco Van Zyl 71 65 68 74
279 – Jacques Blaauw 72 70 67 70, Justin Walters 69 72 67 71, Keith Horne 66 69 70 74, Romain Langasque 70 66 68 75, Jbe’ Kruger 67 67 69 76
280 – James Kingston 72 71 67 70, Darren Fichardt 68 72 70 70, Sebastian Soderberg 69 72 70 69, Oliver Fisher 68 69 70 73, Chris Hanson 71 69 66 74
281 – Mark Foster 68 70 73 70, Alexander Knappe 71 71 69 70, Dawie Van der Walt 71 67 70 73, Brandon Stone 74 67 71 69, Justin Harding 70 70 74 67, Espen Kofstad 73 67 76 65
282 – Christiaan Bezuidenhout 70 70 71 71, Pontus Widegren 72 67 68 75, Paul Waring 70 70 74 68
283 – Jonathan Agren 73 69 68 73, Rourke van der Spuy 72 70 68 73, Ulrich van den Berg 69 70 73 71, Adilson Da Silva 73 69 70 71, Louis de Jager 77 64 67 75, Thomas Detry 72 71 69 71, Rafa Echenique 73 70 69 71, John Parry 74 67 72 70, Michael Hollick 70 71 73 69
284 – Simon Dyson 69 71 71 73, Ross McGowan 72 71 70 71, Morten Orum Madsen 75 68 72 69
285 – Daniel Brooks 69 71 70 75, Shaun Norris 69 69 71 76, Garth Mulroy 71 71 73 70
286 – Adrian Otaegui 71 69 70 76, Danie van Tonder 73 69 72 72
287 – Lucas Bjerregaard 72 71 67 77, Jacques Kruyswijk 73 69 70 75, Steven Tiley 69 72 73 73
288 – Pep Angles 72 71 70 75
289 – Titch Moore 70 73 69 77
290 – James Kamte 70 68 77 75, Paul Maddy 71 69 76 74
292 – Stefan Engell Andersen 72 71 70 79, Andrew Georgiou 72 71 78 71
295 – Niclas Fasth 70 73 74 78
297 – Ockie Strydom 72 70 73 82


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