England’s Andy Sullivan took advantage of former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel’s final-round wobble to claim his maiden European Tour title at the South African Open yesterday.
Home favourite Schwartzel led by four shots with five to play but squandered the advantage and then lost to Sullivan, 27, at the first extra hole of a play-off.
The man from Nuneaton, who started the tournament as world No150, had led after 36 holes but lost ground during round three and began the final day seven strokes behind the South African.
“It’s unbelievable. After Saturday I didn’t think I stood much of a chance with Charl getting ahead that far,” said Sullivan.
“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.”
In a strong event for English players, Lee Slattery finished third on 10 under par, just one shot off the play-off, while Sheffield’s former US Amateur champion Matt Fitzpatrick, 20, tied for fifth.
Schwartzel held a five-shot lead going into Sunday and still looked set for glory at the turn but failed to escape a bunker smoothly at the 14th hole, double-bogeyed 16 and dropped another shot at the 17th.
Sullivan might have won without a play-off but left a birdie putt short at 18. He made no mistake, however, when the pair returned to the same hole moments later, despite missing the fairway, holing from 10 feet after a superb recovery from the trees.
“I was delighted just to hit the green and have a chance to win and I’m just glad I took it,” he added. “I didn’t want to give him a second chance to take the title away from me so I am absolutely delighted.
“To play on the European Tour is something I’ve wanted to do my whole life, so to win an event caps it all off and to do it in South Africa has just been an incredible week.”