SA Open 2017

Round 4 - Graeme Storm beats Rory McIlroy in a playoff

January 16, 2017

Graeme Storm beat Rory McIlroy on the third playoff hole to win the SA Open on Sunday, earning the Englishman a second European Tour title 80 days after losing his card by 100 euros.

After the 251st-ranked Storm tapped in for a par, McIlroy slid his par putt wide from 7 feet on their fourth visit to the 18th hole at the Glendower Golf Club.

''I'm in shock, this has been a surreal week,'' Storm said. ''To find myself in the position I was in, playing on the final day with the best player in the world right now. It's just a dream come true.''

McIlroy, the world No. 2, started the final round three strokes behind Storm but chased down the overnight leader, moving atop the leaderboard when Storm missed a 3-foot par putt on No. 14. McIlroy relinquished the lead by bogeying No. 17 after taking two shots in a greenside bunker, taking the event to a playoff with both on 18-under-par 270.

McIlroy shot 4-under 68 and Storm had a 71.

Storm lost his card at the end of last year, only to get a reprieve when American player Patrick Reed failed to play enough events to join the tour.

His other title came at the French Open in 2007.

Tour rookie Jordan Smith of England was a shot back in third ahead of a trio of South African players. Dean Burmester was fourth on 273, one stroke ahead of Thomas Aiken and Trevor Fisher Jnr.

On the first playoff hole, Storm sank a close-range putt for par. They went back up the par-4 18th and both players drove into the rough but still managed to make par.

The third time round, McIlroy hit his approach shot short of the green to give Storm the advantage. The Englishman's 45-foot birdie putt just missed, as did McIlory's putt for par minutes later.

Storm played cautiously Sunday, coming up short with many putts in the back nine, to allow McIlroy to eat into his lead.

Round 3 - Graeme Storm opens three shot lead

January 15, 2017

Graeme Storm will take a three-shot lead into the final round of the SA Open as he bids for his first European Tour title in 10 years.

The Englishman turned in a third-round 67, the same as Rory McIlroy, who moved into second to set up an intriguing fight on Sunday.

''I'd like to be a few shots better or at least a few shots closer to the lead,'' McIlroy said. ''But hopefully, I can get off to a good start tomorrow and put a bit of pressure on Graeme and make it interesting.''

Storm had five birdies on Saturday and extended his bogey-free run to 41 holes to leave him at 17-under 199 and on the verge of a second European Tour title after winning the Open de France in 2007.

''I have never played with Rory before and I know him really well so it will be a lot of fun,'' Storm said. ''If he hits a good shot and pips me or beats me comfortably, or whoever makes a move from behind, I can't really control that. All I can do is control my golf ball.

''If I can shoot another score in the 60s I'll be pleased even if I don't win. I have come here as a big underdog so that is fine with me.''

It would complete an amazing turnaround for Storm, who thought he lost his playing privileges by just 100 euros in October but was then handed a reprieve after Patrick Reed opted not to play the Final Series.

''I find myself now in a position that I have only been in a couple of times over the past few years,'' Storm said. ''Things have been difficult and last year was a tough year but it has given me a new lease of life and I hope to continue playing well.

''I thought I had lost my card and all of the privileges that come from playing on the European Tour, and when that happens you realize that you can't afford to lose it.''

McIlroy twice caught Storm at the top of the leaderboard with the help of a stunning eagle from 157 yards on the par-4 seventh and a hat trick of birdies on the back nine.

But the second-ranked McIlroy, who almost pulled out of the tournament on Friday with a back complaint, bogeyed the 18th as Storm put in a consistent performance to extend his second-round lead by one shot.

''The back was a little tender this morning - I didn't really get much sleep last night,'' McIlroy said. ''I couldn't get comfortable and I had to wake up in the middle of the night to take a couple of painkillers, but the physios did a good job on me this morning and strapped me up pretty well, and then gave me a couple of anti-inflammatories, which helped.

''It was a bit uncomfortable for the first five or six holes but then I took another couple of anti-inflammatories in the middle of the round and it actually felt pretty good on the back nine so hopefully it will continue to feel that way.''

Storm has led a tournament three times after 54 holes on the European Tour, but hasn't converted any of those leads into victories.

Jordan Smith (68) looked set to challenge Storm after four birdies and an eagle but bogeyed the final two holes to leave him four shots behind his compatriot, level with home favorite Jbe Kruger (69).

Italy's Edoardo Molinari equaled the course record with a 63 - as Storm had done Friday - to surge more than 30 places up the leaderboard into a tie for fifth. Molinari is at 12 under, alongside South African duo Dean Burmester (67) and Jaco Van Zyl (68), French pair Romain Langasque (68) and Joel Stalter (65), and American Peter Uihlein (70).

Round 2 - Rory McIlroy in contention despite back issues

January 14, 2017

Rory McIlroy stayed close to the leaders at the SA Open on Friday despite hurting his back.

The second-ranked McIlroy (68) made five birdies on the first six holes of the back nine but bogeyed the final two to finish in a five-way tie for fifth after two rounds.

''I'm actually surprised I'm standing here. I actually thought about pulling out before even teeing off today,'' he said. ''I tweaked my back somehow and the first few shots today weren't very comfortable and it still isn't really comfortable. I can't really take a deep breath because I've done something to my upper back.''

McIlroy said he was going to get treatment in an effort to stay in the tournament.

Graeme Storm jumped into a two-stroke lead at the top of the leaderboard after shooting a course record 9-under 63 at the Glendower Golf Club.

Storm had nine birdies and leads Peter Uihlein (64), overnight leader Trevor Fisher Jr. (68), and Jbe Kruger (67) by two.

''I tip Rory to win this week because he hits it miles and he hits it straight,'' said Storm, who leads at 12-under 132 overall. ''If I keep on his tail, I'll be happy.''

Storm finished one shy of his career best 62.

''I could have birdied a couple more of the par fives, I only birdied one of them today,'' he said. ''So to shoot 63 and only having birdied one of the par fives around here, I've played pretty well.''

Play was suspended at about 5 p.m. local time because of the threat of lightning, forcing 40 players - including Europe Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke - to complete their second rounds on Saturday.

McIlroy, a stroke off the lead overnight, bogeyed the 17th when his putt for par rolled just left of the hole. He ended up in the bunker on the final hole and over-hit his escape shot. It left him with a long but straight putt for par and his attempt fell just short.

''Disappointed to finish the way I did. I thought I hit a good shot on 17, it just pitched a bit too far,'' McIlroy said. ''Then on 18 I was probably just rushing a bit to get in before the weather. The start and the finish wasn't great but everything in between was pretty good and I'm still in contention.''

McIlroy is playing this week as a favor to Ernie Els, the South African great and tournament host.

Round 1 - Rory McIlroy one off the lead

January 13, 2017

Rory McIlroy made an impressive start to 2017 with a new set of clubs, shooting a 5-under 67 in the first round at the SA Open on Thursday.

Making his first appearance at the tournament since 2008, McIlroy rolled in seven birdies - including four straight from Nos. 14-17 after starting at the 10th - to put himself a shot off the lead held by Trevor Fisher Jr. after the morning starters.

With Nike announcing last year it would no longer be making golf clubs and balls, the second-ranked McIlroy has been testing out new woods, irons and a putter from other manufacturers and said his new bag ''is working pretty well.''

''I'm sure as I get accustomed to them - I mean, it's nice to play my first competitive round and play like this - I'll get even more dialed in, and chop and change a little bit,'' McIlroy said.

The Northern Irishman is the standout player in Johannesburg this week, making an earlier-than-usual start to his golfing year as a favor to Ernie Els, the South African great and the host of the SA Open. The galleries were drawn to McIlroy despite his early tee time of 7:10 a.m. local time, and he responded with an adventurous round that included a 392-yard drive on the first hole, drawing gasps from spectators.

A 20-foot putt on No. 17 completed his four-hole run of birdies before McIlroy rolled in an 8-footer on No. 2 to move to 5 under. Poor approach shots led to bogeys on the fourth and fifth, but he replied with a tee shot on the par-3 sixth that stopped on the slope in the middle of the green and rolled back down to two feet, for a tap-in birdie.

He was in the rough on his final three holes but scrambled to par Nos. 7 and 9 and made a birdie on No. 8.

''I gave myself chances, felt I missed a few but I played well,'' McIlroy said. ''It was a bit adventurous on the back nine, scrambled a bit and did my bit to salvage a few holes.''

South African players have won 13 of the last 19 editions of the SA Open, and three of the top four among the early starters were home players.

Fisher Jr., also starting at No. 10, made seven birdies in eight holes from the 12th to the first and parred his way home for a 66.

Thomas Aiken and Dean Burmester were alongside McIlroy after 67s. Els and defending champion Brandon Stone started with 74s.

Scores