Sullivan smiles all way to Joburg Open title

HAPPY WINNER:  Andy Sullivan celebrates his win at the Joburg Open Picture: GETTY IMAGES -
HAPPY WINNER: Andy Sullivan celebrates his win at the Joburg Open Picture: GETTY IMAGES –

Englishman comes out on top of six-man tussle for victory

ENGLANDS Andy Sullivan, arguably the biggest smiler in world golf, out-manoeuvred a horde of contenders to claim the Joburg Open crown by two shots yesterday.

The Englishman, who bagged his maiden European Tour triumph at the SA Open seven weeks ago, yesterday carded a six-under-par 66 on the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club’s east course to finish on 17 under overall.

Sullivan’s birdie on the final hole closed off a round in which the lead changed hands no fewer than eight times between six players.

They resembled a pack of rugby forwards trying to get through a turnstile simultaneously, starting with overnight leader Wallie Coetsee in the morning then Anthony Wall of England.

Irishman Kevin Phelan, Kristoffer Broberg of Sweden and David Howell, another Englishman, also took turns atop the leaderboard, but none could match Sullivan for sheer guts or charm.

Every one of them carded at least one bogey, but Sullivan responded best after hitting his approach into the water at the par-four 11th. He then nailed a critical putt to limit the damage to just one dropped shot.

“That putt on 11 was just huge in the context of everything,” Sullivan, who hit back with birdies on the par-four 15th and par-five 18th, said.

“I played really good. I just misjudged the line, then I thought: ‘I’m playing good, just carry on’.

“I did give myself a lot of chances on the way in and managed to bag a couple,” Sullivan, who heads to East London for the Africa Open this week, said. While his rivals scowled and winced when they were not wearing poker faces, Sullivan kept his trademark smile burning through thick and thin.

He said: “I definitely enjoy what I do and I think you can see that out on the golf course.

“Every time I get into contention down the final stretch, I just wish I could bottle up the emotions I go through. It’s like a drug, it’s just unbelievable and I just thrive on it.”

Sullivan, whose wife and daughter were at home in England, said he had not always been like that.

“It took a long time for me to realise that’s the best way for me to perform.

“And having a little girl put that in perspective … no matter how well you play, good or bad, you go back and see your little daughter’s face. She doesn’t know if you played good or bad.

“Golf really doesn’t matter as much as you think.”

Apart from the R2.67-million winner’s cheque, Sullivan also bagged one of three spots into this year’s Open championship, to be played at St Andrews.

“I’ve never played in a major championship before and my manager [Shaun Webster] and my caddie [Sean McDonagh] give me enough stick that they’ve played in one and I haven’t, so it’d be nice to stop that,” he said.

The other two spots went to Howell and Wall, who tied for second alongside Phelan, Coetsee and Jaco van Zyl.

In the event of a tie, the entry was decided by world rankings.

Sullivan is expected to move to seventh spot in the Race to Dubai.

-David Isaacson

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