European Tour: 4 Things We Learned at the Joburg Open

European Tour: 4 Things We Learned at the Joburg Open

Andy Sullivan poses with the trophy after winning the Joburg Open at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club Sunday in Johannesburg, South Africa.
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Andy Sullivan claimed his second European Tour victory of 2015 with a two-shot triumph in the Joburg Open at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club.

The Englishman – who also reigned supreme at the South African Open in January – started the final round one shot behind compatriots Steve Webster and David Howell and home hope Jacques Blaauw on 11-under-par.

Sullivan progressed serenely through the front nine, recording five birdies and no bogeys en route to an outward 32.

He dropped his first shot of the day at the tough 11th, but moved into the lead with a birdie at the 15th as Howell found water on the hole behind.

Sulllivan parred the 16th and 17th and rolled home an eight-foot birdie putt at the 72nd hole to put himself two strokes clear in the clubhouse.

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Behind, neither Howell or fellow Englishman Anthony Wall were able to find the two birdies they required to force additional holes.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Sullivan. “I never imagined it would happen again so quickly.

“Coming down the stretch, me and my caddy were loving life again and enjoying it. It seems to be a theme, enjoying my golf and getting the right results at the moment.”

Four things we learned at the Joburg Open:

1. Andy Sullivan has transformed himself from a middle-of-the-road competitor to a two-time European Tour champion in the space of just eight weeks. He defeated 2011 Masters Champion Charl Schwartzel in a play-off at the South African Open two months ago and showed great poise and composure down the stretch to clinch his second title in Johannesburg. The 28-year-old – who looks likely to move inside the world’s top 60 for the first time – played his first 83 European Tour events without a win. Now, he’s triumphed in two of his last seven starts.

2. Sullivan also earned a space in the Open Championship field as the event featured as part of the Open Qualifying Series. There were three places up for grabs at the Joburg Open, handed out to the top three non-exempt players in the field. Howell, Wall, Wallie Coetsee, Jaco Van Zyl and Kevin Phelan all finished in a tie for 2nd, but the English due joined Sullivan on the St Andrews start sheet by virtue of their superior world rankings. In total, there are 14 Open Qualifying Series events, three of which have already taken place.

3. Despite missing out on an Open Championship berth, Kevin Phelan has much to be positive about. The Irishman, who turned professional after the Walker Cup in 2013, came through three stages of European Tour Q-School to earn his card for the 2014 season. He came 3rd last season at the Hong Kong Open, but registered his best finish to date, a tie for 2nd, in South Africa.

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4. Darren Clarke said before the tournament he hoped the Ryder Cup captaincy would bring a much-needed boost to his game. Sadly, that didn’t materialize in Johannesburg. The Northern Irishman compiled rounds of 72 and 72 to miss the cut by five shots. Clarke has yet to make a cut this season and he’s only earned €13,504 – roughly $20,000 – since September 2014. At least his European Tour exemption isn’t going to run out any time soon.

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