Andy Sullivan with the silverware after the English Championship, Pic: Getty Images/ European Tour
Aug 9: Andy Sullivan starting the final day of the English Championship with a five-shot advantage saw his lead being cut to two at one stage, but yet another brilliant back nine saw him win his first European Tour title in five years. The 34-year-old had three previous wins, but all of them came in 2015.
Spaniard Adrian Otaegui did provide a challenge and came within two shots, but was then left far behind as Sullivan won by seven shots in Hertfordshire.
He started the day five shots clear but had that advantage cut to two as the Spaniard made a front-nine charge. Sullivan had four birdies in his last seven holes for a back nine 31 and a card of 65 and a 27-under par total.
“It’s frustrating that I didn’t kick on (from the 2015 success),” he said. “It feels like the weight of the world’s been lifted off my shoulders. I’m back in the winner’s circle. I’m feeling proud of myself to come back and get that W in the manner I did today.
“It didn’t feel like a seven shot lead out there. When I got on 12 and saw Adrian was two behind and breathing down my neck… it was just nice that I could keep pressing on at the end there. The putter just got hot.”
Waiting for him by the 18th green was a laptop so he could speak with his family – and the tears started to flow.
Speaking about his emotions, Sullivan said: “I think it was just the people that have missed it for me. My brother-in-law was only 24 and got taken from us, so it’s quite emotional for him not to witness it. And a good friend of mine has passed as well. It means a lot to do that for them.
“It’s just nice for my family. To win for my little boy, who is only two-years-old. It’s just nice for him to see daddy being successful. He hasn’t quite seen that.
Sullivan reached the turn with a three shot lead despite an eagle on the second as Otaegui recorded five birdies on the front nine.
The Englishman had given the chasing pack early hope when he found long rough and a bunker on the first hole, but he sunk a nerve-settling eight footer to save par.
Fourth eagle of the week
His eagle on the second was his fourth of the week and moved him six shots clear of a contested chasing pack, with seven players tied for second at one point.
But a bogey on the fourth dropped Sullivan back to 22 under, while Otaegui followed up birdies on the first and second with back-to-back gains on the sixth and seventh to move within three.
Otaegui reached the turn in 32 and was just two shots behind as he birdied the par five ninth but Sullivan responded with his first birdie of the round at the same hole to restore his three-shot lead.
Otaegui holed from just off the green on the 12th to again cut the lead to two shots but Sullivan once more responded with an eight footer to stay three ahead.
And Sullivan then holed a brilliant 20 foot putt on the par four 14th and followed it up with another birdie three on the next to move five shots ahead.
Otaegui faded and dropped a shot on the 17th when his 20 foot par putt came up just short before a par on the last.
That left Sullivan to head down the last with six shots in hand and he finished in style with another birdie.
Rasmus Højgaard finished third on 19 under after a flawless 64. It was the impressive 19-year-old Dane’s third successive top six finish on the UK Swing, following a second place finish at the Betfred British Masters hosted by Lee Westwood and last week’s tied sixth at the Hero Open.
Steven Brown had started the day as the closest challenger to his 2011 Walker Cup team-mate Sullivan and ended the day fifth with a one under 70.
India’s Shubhankar Sharma missed the cut this week.
Andy Sullivan close to ending five-year title drought in English Champs
Sharma misses cut second straight week; leader Sullivan sparks on back nine
Sharma slips to even par 71 after a fine start at English Championship