Rory McIlroy was in a magnanimous mood after losing to England’s Graeme Storm at the third extra hole of a play-off for the 2017 BMW SA Open hosted by City of Ekurhuleni at the pristine Glendower Golf Club on Sunday.
"Obviously it's disappointing to finish like that but Graeme has played well all week and what a story it is for him," McIlroy said. "He thought he had lost his card at the end of last year and there he is now standing with a trophy in his hands after the first event of 2017. I'm delighted for him. I wish I could have done a little more but it's not a bad way to start the season and gives me something to build on in the weeks ahead."
The thousands of fans who flocked to the course to watch the World No.2 in action were given more than a glimpse of his immense power and talent. McIlroy, who played with a back injury throughout the four days, started the final round three strokes behind Storm but finished level on 18 under par with a round of 68 to his rival’s 71.
In the play-off, however, it was Storm who came through to claim an emotional victory at the third time of trying, with a par to McIlroy’s bogey at the difficult par four 18th.
"I’m in shock, I really don’t know what to say, it’s just surreal to be standing here having beaten the best player in the world," said 38-year-old Storm. "It really means everything to me to be in the winner's circle again. I have been to hell and back to be honest with you."
Only 84 days had passed since Storm missed a short putt on the final green of the final event of the regular European Tour season that meant he lost his playing rights on tour by just 100 euros. His luck turned, however, when America’s Patrick Reed failed to play enough events to fulfil the membership criteria and Storm moved up one all-important place in the rankings.
One of the highlights of the week was South African Jaco van Zyl’s hole-in-one on the par three 17th in the second round that was good enough to win him a sparkling BMW i8 hybrid sports car. In what could be a good omen, van Zyl may also have noted that Storm won the same prize at the Omega European Masters in 2014 and has now gone on to top that with victory in a prestigious BMW event. Maybe a pattern is emerging, considering that England's Chris Wood also won a BMW i8 at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in 2015 and followed up with victory in the same flagship event a year later. Time will tell.