“Golf is a funny game and things like this happen. It was a rollercoaster of emotions. I didn’t expect to have a chance to win it and to take it in my first go is an unbelievable feeling that I’ll cherish for a long, long time,” said the Englishman, who found himself in a playoff with Charl Schwartzel an hour after signing for a final round of 67.
Sullivan’s drive on the first sudden-death hole found the left rough behind a tree, but he played the shot of the tournament to 12 feet and then sank the putt to become the 63rd winner of the South African Open Championship.
“Unfortunately the tree was right in front of me, so I had to cut a little nine iron around it. With everything on the line and with all the pressure it was without a doubt one of the best shots I’ve ever hit. It was an all or nothing shot that came off,” he said.
It was a second year of heartbreak for Schwartzel, who began the day with a five-shot lead. He looked set for a march to victory with three holes left to play, but his round unravelled with a double bogey at the 16th and bogey at the 17th. The nine-time European Tour winner was left to a bitter consolation prize of second place.
“Pretty much lost for words right now. I played fairly decently but struggled with the driver today. Andy hit an incredible shot and I take my hat off to him,” he said.
The day belonged to Sullivan, who became the second English winner in the event’s 112-year history. The 28-year-old began the day seven shots back, but worked his way to 11-under-par in the clubhouse, thanks largely to his incredible putting.
“You’ve got to do special things to win a tournament and to have 24 putts on the last day is definitely an example.
“To find out I was in a playoff was quite a shock, because I didn’t expect it. I was reflecting on my week and happy with the start, then suddenly I had to get back into golf mode. You never forget your first win and this will live long in the memory,” he said.
Fellow Englishman Lee Slattery carded a final round of 69 to take up sole third on 10-under-par, while two-time Alfred Dunhill Championship winner Pablo Martin Benavides finished in sole fourth on nine-under.