Graeme Storm has been announced as the Hilton European Tour Golfer of the Month for January after completing a remarkable comeback story courtesy of a play-off victory over Rory McIlroy at the BMW SA Open hosted by City of Ekurhuleni.
The Englishman showed nerves of steel as he came up against the four-time Major Champion, who had made up a three-shot deficit on the final day to pile the pressure on Storm, whose only other European Tour victory had come ten years ago in the Open de France.
While the crowd cheered McIlroy’s name, Storm was not to be outdone and he emerged victorious after the third extra hole thanks to a par four on the 18th hole.
It marked an incredible resurgence for the 38 year old from Hartlepool, who had seemingly lost his European Tour card by just €100 at the end of the 2016 season only to be handed a reprieve after Patrick Reed was removed from the Race to Dubai Rankings, having not played the requisite number of events.
Storm receives Hilton Honors Diamond Elite Status – the exclusive highest tier of the hotel’s renowned loyalty scheme – for winning the Golfer of the Month, having beaten Tommy Fleetwood, Jeunghun Wang and Jordan Smith to the award.
Storm said: “It’s a very big honour to be awarded the Hilton European Tour Golfer of the Month, I don’t think I’ve ever received this award before in my long career.
“The win in South Africa has been a great turning point in my career, I’ve continued to play well after it too and it’s nice to be back playing well again.
“The whole experience beating Rory was unbelievable, it still hasn’t really sunk in to be perfectly honest, even five or six weeks down the line. I still get flashbacks of what I achieved – beating Rory was a massive plus obviously and it has given me the confidence to play well in the future, knowing that I can mix it with the best when I play well.”
Fleetwood’s return to the winners' enclave, courtesy of a one-stroke victory over Dustin Johnson of the USA and Spain’s Pablo Larrazábal at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, saw him voted to second place.
Wang, meanwhile, finished in third place after the Korean became the third-youngest player to win three times on the European Tour – following Matteo Manassero and Seve Ballesteros respectively – with victory at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
Jim Tucker, golf writer for News Corp Australia, said: “It is astonishing in sport how often it takes the near-loss of a career to rouse a career-defining moment and so it was with Graeme Storm at the BMW SA Open.
“Second in a playoff to Rory McIlroy would not have been the full fairytale - it took a win to gift every newspaper headline writer a great surname to work with as well as a great story.
“The full volume on Tommy Fleetwood's win in Abu Dhabi was beating Dustin Johnson into second place because the American soon become the World Number One, so he's the number two choice for the month, while Jeunghun Wang is our choice for third.”
Hilton, the Official Hotel Supplier to the European Tour, is the Official Sponsor of the European Tour Golfer of the Month award, which recognises and rewards the best performances of European Tour members each month.