England’s Graeme Storm almost lost his European Tour card last season, but in the first tournament of 2017 he beat world number two Rory McIlroy in a thrilling playoff to claim the BMW South African Open title at Glendower Golf Club on Sunday.

After finishing tied for the lead on 18 under par, Storm and McIlroy parred the 18th twice in the playoff. But the third time around, Storm made par and then watched as McIlroy’s par putt slid by the hole.

“It feels unbelievable. I had a great battle out there with Rory. To win this trophy and get my name on there is a dream come true. It’s a surreal moment for me,” said Storm.

McIlroy was disappointed, but full of praise for Storm’s performance.

“Yes it’s disappointing, but saying that Graeme played well all week. It’s a great story, him going from thinking he’s lost his card last year to winning the first week back out. So I’m really pleased for him. I wish I could’ve done something more, but it’s not a bad way to start the season.”

Dean Burmester finished as the leading South African in fourth place on 15 under par.

Storm had a three-stroke lead over the four-time Major champion going into the final round, but McIlroy started strong with two opening birdies and then took the lead by a stroke with four holes to play.

“I knew he’d be getting off to a quick start and he did that. I didn’t play my best golf all day and just tried to hang in as best I could,” said Storm.

McIlroy bogeyed 17 to drop into a share of the lead with Storm. Knowing he was outgunned in terms of power off the tee, Storm said he just tried to keep playing his own game into the playoff.

“That’s all I could do. I can’t bomb it like Rory.”

Storm has struggled through some low points in his career, which makes the pressure of this playoff seem trivial by comparison.

“When you win the British Amateur everybody expects you to be the next best thing. I got my card the first time at European Tour School and then lost it straightaway. It’s a difficult transition and I had some poor years. But I went back to the beginning and had great support.

“Last year was a real tough year. The pressure in the playoff was great and I was nervous, but the experience of last year and almost losing my card helped me. That’s real pressure – playing for your livelihood, playing to stay on the European Tour and playing to pay the bills. This proves and shows I deserve to be out here.”

“I’ve come through it and I want to try and build on it now.” – Michael Vlismas