Forgotten man Graeme Storm completed his remarkable turnaround in fortunes over the last three months by beating world No2 Rory McIlroy to the South African Open on Sunday.
Storm looked to have missed out on his tour card by the slimmest of margins when he bogeyed the last at the Portugal Masters in October, only to be granted a reprieve when American Patrick Reed freed up a place by declining his exemption.
The Englishman took full advantage in his first tournament of 2017, seeing off McIlroy at the third hole of a play-off to claim his first European Tour title for almost 10 years.
“I can’t quite believe it,” said the 38-year-old.
“This is a dream come true, especially after what happened to me last year. I really took a lot from that experience and told myself to try and grasp the opportunity of getting my livelihood back with both hands and I have done that this week.
"I have been to hell and back. It has been an absolute rollercoaster over the last year and a half. There was pressure today but not the same pressure as trying to keep your European Tour card.”
Storm took a three-shot lead into the final day and finished with a one-under-par round of 71 to leave him on 18 under par.
McIlroy’s 68 forced a play-off, but while Storm parred all the extra holes, the Northern Irishman succumbed at the third.
England’s Jordan L Smith, 24, just missed out on joining the play-off after his 68 left him in third place on 17 under.
“It’s disappointing to finish like that but Graeme has played well all week and what a story it for him,” said McIlroy.
“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.”