Andy Sullivan beats Charl Schwartzel in SA Open playoff
Coming into the 104th South African Open, Charl Schwartzel was the consensus favourite in his home country thanks to a weak field and after three rounds, it certainly seemed like he was going to grab his tenth European Tour win after building a five shot lead over Matthew Fitzpatrick, but he couldn’t hang on, losing in a playoff to Englishman Andy Sullivan.
Coming into the tournament, there was some talk that Schwartzel was losing a little faith in the driver, which in the past, has been the best club in his bag and that really started to show on Saturday where he frequently found himself in the deep rough at Glendower. Despite the erratic driving, his lead was still three as he got to the 16th tee on Sunday, but he quickly sent another ball right of the fairway, eventually leading to a double bogey. He would bogey the 17th as well, but picked up a par on the 18th to force a playoff with Sullivan.
Schwartzel and Sullivan would head back to the 18th tee for the first playoff hole, with both men missing the fairway from the tee. Schwartzel was nowhere near the fairway and had tree trouble, forcing him to pop one just over the trees with a wedge, while Sullivan appeared to have an opening on the left side but needed to keep it low under the trees, and as the commentators said, “a good result would be to get into the front bunker.” Well…
Sullivan would go on to make the putt and win his first event on the European Tour.
What The Win Means For Sullivan
Two selected points from the European Tour:
- First win in his 84th career start on the European Tour.
- European Tour exempt until the end of 2016.
I talk about this all the time, but it really does bear repeating: guys like Sullivan need wins like this to keep them afloat. As much as Schwartzel would have liked to win this tournament, he’s going to be just fine in the long run, as players of his quality and record don’t just go away, at least not usually. Even though he’s been playing on the European Tour for three years, this win guarantees that Sullivan will be doing that for the next two years, which is absolutely huge for him.
Also, getting into the top 100 in the OWGR is a big thing, and if he can keep on playing well and moving on up, we could see him eligible for things like WGC events and major championships.
Maybe he can also finally get himself a Wikipedia page too.
What The Loss Means For Schwartzel
Stars like Schwartzel aren’t supposed to blow tournaments like this, but it really is a reminder that this can happen to anyone. For such a good ball striker, it was a little worrisome to read the reports that Schwartzel was struggling with the driver and then to actually see it play out over the last 36 holes has me a little concerned. He’s never been a great putter either, so if the driver isn’t going to be there, it doesn’t exactly bode well.
I’m a big believer in Schwartzel though, and when I posted my 2015 preview on him, I mentioned that it really seems like he doesn’t win enough for someone with his talent. I’d like to think that he’ll figure it out with the driver because he’s been far too good with it over the years to have it all of a sudden disappear.
#TourSauce of the tournament
Nice exaggeration here by Gary Stal.
- Ernie Els ended up in a tie for 20th after being just one shot back after the opening round. The bogey-double-double from 8-10 on Friday ruined him. Swing still looks gorgeous though:
- It’s going to get lost in the dramatics of the playoff and Schwartzel’s loss, but Matthew Fitzpatrick played in the final group with Schwartzel on Sunday and finished tied for 5th. The 20-year old Englishman was the top ranked amateur in the world, and earned his European Tour card at the end of 2014. He’s definitely one to watch.
- The field wasn’t great this week, but that all changes next week in Abu Dhabi with Schwartzel, Els and the 2015 debuts of Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose and Martin Kaymer.