Andy Sullivan hopes to build on his impressive record in South Africa at this week’s Joburg Open as the Englishman looks to continue his remarkable rise.
A fifth-place finish at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club 12 months ago took Sullivan to the brink of the Official World Golf Ranking’s top 300.
However, a win this week – to add to the South African Open Championship title he picked up down the road in Ekurhuleni last month – could see the 28 year old crack the all-important top 50 for the first time in his career.
While the top 50 are automatically exempt for Majors and World Golf Championships, a top three finish this week will be enough to secure an Open Championship spot, something Sullivan narrowly missed out on last year.
“Finishing fifth here last year and then winning the SA Open at Glendower down the road makes it nice to come back,” said Sullivan, who in an impressive year has also won a trip to space for a hole-in-one at the KLM Open.
“I’m keen to have a crack at it and I’m full of confidence. I’m swinging it quite well after a two week break, so I’m looking forward to this week.
“I have learnt a lot since that win. Playing with Rory (McIlroy) and Martin (Kaymer) the first two days in Dubai, I learnt so much about myself and my game. It’s nice to be out here and I get quite a lot of attention, so hopefully I’ll come out and do myself justice.
“Since the end of last year I’ve been really enjoying my golf and going out there having a laugh. It shows, because enjoying it makes you a lot more relaxed and brings out your best golf."
On the chance to earn a place at St Andrews, Sullivan added: “I’ve never played a Major Championship - to play one in your own country would be absolutely fantastic. I don’t want to put too much emphasis on it, because I think I’ve done that in the past and underperformed. For me, it’s about going out there and trying to enjoy myself.
“If I don’t get it now I’ll get it eventually, so I won’t pressure myself too much. If I got it then it would be absolutely fantastic.”
One of those trying to stop Sullivan is newly-appointed Ryder Cup Captain Darren Clarke, who will be keen to make the weekend in order to enjoy two rounds on one of his favourite courses. The action is split between the East Course and West Course over the first two rounds, before reverting to the East Course for the third and fourth rounds.
“The East Course is one of my favourites in the world,” said Clarke. “There are a couple of new tees in and it’s a bit longer, otherwise the course is in great condition.
On leading Europe at Hazeltine next year, the former Open Champion added: “I still haven’t been informed of my official duties, but on a personal note it’s a great honour.
“I’m delighted to be the Ryder Cup Captain and I will do my best for The European Tour and the team. There is a very exciting couple of years ahead, and I know I’ll be busy.”