Eighty-three days after losing his European Tour card by 100 euros, Graeme Storm pipped Rory McIlroy in a play-off to win the South African Open.
Storm was given a reprieve when Patrick Reed failed to play enough events to join the Tour and he made the most of his second coming in Johannesburg.
Starting the day three shots clear of the world number two, he almost buckled under the heat as McIlroy made five birdies in a final-round 68.
But the Holywood golfer’s bogey on the par-three 17th teed up a play-off which the Hartlepool man took.
He held his nerve to sink a close-range putt after McIlroy had finished the first time they went back up the 18th hole, but when McIlroy drove wildly the second time, he had a chance.
His first shot was not ideal either, though, following McIlroy into the rough, and back they went again.
The third time out, McIlroy’s second shot on the par-four was a poor one, falling short of the green, and a 45-foot putt from Storm that skipped just past allowed him to take a par.
And when McIlroy failed from seven feet, the title was Storm’s - his second European Tour title and first since he won the French Open in 2007.
“I am speechless. It’s been incredible and I can’t quite believe it,” he said.
“This is a dream come true, especially after what happened to me last year with my card and everything.
“I really took a lot from that experience and told myself to try and grasp the opportunity of getting my livelihood back with both hands and I have done that this week.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling. I hung in there today and didn’t play my best stuff but I knew if I could hang in there that I might get my chance and thankfully it came.
“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. It’s been an absolute rollercoaster over the last year and a half - especially the end of last year.
“There was pressure today but not the same pressure as trying to keep your European Tour card. That’s real pressure and something I don’t want to feel for a long time.”
Storm picked up £143,000 as a result of the victory and added; “I was saying to Rory in the walk up the fairway in the last play-of hole that this was actually the first time we had played together and to play 21 holes with him was just incredible. An absolute gentleman and I think the best player in the world right now.”
McIlroy, who revealed afterwards that he will have a scan on his injured back today, has set his sights on returning to the world number one spot.
“Obviously it’s disappointing to finish like that but Graeme has played well all week and what a story it for him,” said Rory.
“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.
“I knew that if I had a good week here then I can go to Abu Dhabi next week and win there and get back to Number One so that’s a nice goal to have going into next week.
“I played well and wish I could have got a win but it’s a good start to the year. But look, we have had a fantastic time here in South Africa over the last ten days and we are planning to come back near the end of the year.”