Sunday, 11 January 2015
Andy Sullivan  (Getty Images)
Andy Sullivan (Getty Images)
Andy Sullivan snatched The South African Open Championship hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni from Charl Schwartzel after a dramatic play-off.

Sullivan fired a remarkable approach from the trees to 12 feet at the first extra hole and sank the putt to secure his first European Tour win.

Schwartzel took a five shot lead into the final round at Glendower Golf Club and, despite an error-strewn display, still led by four with five holes to play.

However, the former Masters Tournament champion then failed to get up and down from a plugged lie in a greenside bunker on the 14th and three-putted the 16th to run up a double bogey six, before a poor tee shot on the 17th led to another bogey and left him tied with Sullivan on 11 under par.

The players returned to the 18th for a sudden-death play-off and, after both had missed the fairway, Sullivan produced a stunning recovery for a winning birdie.

Sullivan, who held a one-shot lead at the halfway stage but bogeyed the first four holes as playing partner Schwartzel birdied them, started the day seven shots off the lead but carded four birdies, a chip-in eagle and one bogey in a closing 67.

The 27 year old perhaps thought his chance had gone when he left a long birdie putt on the 18th a few inches short, but Schwartzel's shaky finish led to a 74 and ensured extra holes were required.

"It's unbelievable," Sullivan said during the trophy presentation. "After Saturday I didn't think I stood much of a chance with Charl getting ahead that far.

"I just dug in there yesterday and today and found myself in a position where I had a chance to win. My caddie said over the last few holes 'no regrets' and I've definitely got no regrets over the last few holes, especially that play-off hole.

"Charl has won Major Championships; my caddie said ‘expect him to hole’ (his third shot) and he nearly did. I was delighted just to hit the green and have a chance to win and I'm just glad I took it.

"I didn't want to give him a second chance to take the title away from me so I am absolutely delighted and I hope the guys at Nuneaton Golf Club are having a few beers for me!

"To just play on The European Tour is something I've wanted to do my whole life, so to win an event just caps it all off and to do it in South Africa where I have always enjoyed playing, it has just been an incredible week."

England's Lee Slattery carded a closing 69 to finish third, just one shot outside the play-off, with Spain's Pablo Martin another shot back in fourth after also recording a 69.

Former US Amateur Champion Matt Fitzpatrick had been the first player to put the pressure on playing partner Schwartzel with birdies at the second and fourth, but the 20 year old from Sheffield double-bogeyed the seventh and ran up a triple bogey on the 13th after finding water to finish joint fifth.

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