Graeme Storm edges Rory McIlroy in play-off to clinch BMW SA Open epic
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 16/01/17 10:35am
Graeme Storm produced a remarkable performance to edge out Rory McIlroy in a tense play-off to win his first European Tour title in almost 10 years at the BMW SA Open.
The vast galleries were treated to a thrilling three-way battle between Storm, McIlroy and Jordan Smith on the final day at Glendower Golf Club, and it was Storm who defied the odds to beat the four-time major champion at the third extra hole.
The 38-year-old, who only retained his card for the 2017 season when Patrick Reed gave up his European Tour membership in November, led by three overnight but trailed with four holes to play as McIlroy reeled him in.
But Storm, who dropped only one shot in his last three rounds, finished tied with the favourite on 18 under when McIlroy bogeyed the 17th and both players holed clutch four-foot putts for par on the final green, while rookie Smith came up one stroke adrift.
Storm and McIlroy traded pars on the tough 18th over the first two play-off holes, but McIlroy then blocked his tee shot into the right rough and pulled his second, his ball coming to rest just short of a greenside bunker.
He pitched to 10 feet and then looked on as Storm's long-distance birdie putt shaved the edge of the hole and left him a tap-in for par, but McIlroy's putt to force a fourth extra hole lipped out and left an emotional Storm to celebrate his first win since the 2007 Open de France.
McIlroy's bid to pressure the overnight leader had got off to the ideal start when he hit a superb approach to six feet from rough at the first and rolled in the putt for birdie, and he two-putted for another at the long second as Smith bounced back from an opening bogey with a brilliant eagle.
Storm missed a good chance from 10 feet, but he atoned from similar range at the next while Smith chalked up a birdie, and he made another at the next when he holed a monster putt from 50 feet.
Smith's charge continued as he converted an excellent tee shot to the sixth, but a wild drive at the next proved costly as he flew the green with his second and hacked his third into a bunker, running up a double-bogey six as his two rivals both parred.
The young Englishman again proved his resolve as he matched McIlroy's birdie at the eighth, and the final trio traded pars at the next four holes before McIlroy birdied 13 to tie Storm for the lead.
The world No 2 suddenly led outright with a sublime sand-save at 14, while Storm took three putts from the fringe to card his first bogey for 55 holes, and Smith leapt back into the frame with a stunning second to two feet at the long 15th which left him a virtual tap-in for eagle.
McIlroy recovered from a loose drive with a nice pitch and putt for birdie and Storm also made four having spurned a good chance for eagle, and the tournament took a decisive turn at the short 17th when McIlroy bunkered his tee shot and his first escape attempt from an awkward lie rolled back into the sand.
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He did well to get up and down to limit the damage to a bogey, and Smith also dropped a shot having found the same bunker as Storm ground out a battling par to ensure he would be tied for the lead heading to the 72 hole.
Storm's 60-foot birdie putt trickled four feet past the cup, and Mcilroy did the same from half the distance, but both held their nerve to knock in the par putts while Smith also settled for par to finish one adrift.
Dean Burmester was the best of the rest, and the leading home player, as he birdied three of the last four holes but also double-bogeyed the 17th in a 69 which lifted him to 15 under - two behind Smith and one ahead of compatriot Thomas Aiken.