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Monday 25 September 2017

Fairy tale triumph for Storm as McIlroy faces back scan

Rory McIlroy and Graeme Storm look on from the 18th green. Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy and Graeme Storm look on from the 18th green. Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images

James Corrigan

While Graeme Storm was celebrating his golfing fairy tale, Rory McIlroy was heading to Dubai for a scan on his injured back, which he fears could cause him to miss a shot at regaining the World No. 1 spot.

Storm beat McIlroy on the third hole of a gripping play-off at the BMW South Africa Open and although the Northern Irishman was understandably bemoaning the continuation of his opening-week curse - this was the fifth time in the last seven years that he has finished runner-up in his first event of the year - he did not begrudge his friend's success. As McIlroy said: "What a story it is."

In October, Storm, the popular 38-year-old from Hartlepool, was in despair as he believed that a final-hole bogey at the Portugal Masters had cost him his European Tour card - by €100.

He left the Algarve thinking that he no longer had a job and was considering what to do next. However, then the American Patrick Reed failed to fulfil the minimum number of events when skipping the Final Series and so Storm was handed a reprieve.

And there he was, at the Glendower Country Club near Johannesburg, capitalising on his second chance in one of the most gutsy scenarios imaginable.

To win just the second title of his career - following his French Open title a decade earlier - and in the process ensure he retains his Tour playing privileges for at least two years, was the stuff of fantasy.

To do so when going head-to-head with McIlroy, the World No. 2 and winner of four majors, was, in his words, "totally unbelievable".

"This is a dream come true. I've been to hell and back, but I really took a lot from that experience last year and told myself to try to grasp the opportunity of getting my livelihood back with both hands. I have done that today and it means everything," said Storm.

He began the day three ahead of McIlroy, but despite a steady 71 he was reeled in by his 27-year-old rival's 68.

Credit should also be given to Jordan Smith, the 24-year-old from Bath who missed the play-off by a shot on just his fifth Tour start.

Storm and McIlroy returned to the 18th tee for the sudden death shoot-out and each made par fours on the first two attempts. However, at the third time of asking, McIlroy missed the green and failed to get up and down.

He refused to blame the upper-back problem, which he believes was caused by all the testing he did in the off-season as he chose new clubs following the withdrawal of sponsors Nike from equipment-making. However, he was in obvious discomfort and spent hours on the physio table and was still popping anti-inflammatories in the play-off.

McIlroy is due to appear in this week's Abu Dhabi Championship, alongside the likes of Henrik Stenson, Dustin Johnson and Danny Willett, and knows that a win would see him usurp Jason Day at the head of the rankings.

It is certainly a tantalising prospect, but McIlroy has wisely determined to keep his eye on the bigger picture. © Daily Telegraph, London

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