ANDY Sullivan cruised to a commanding victory at the English Championship at Hanbury Manor.
The former Ryder Cup player claimed his fourth European Tour title and his first in nearly five years in the process after his win at the Portugal Masters in 2015.
The Walker Cup winner held the lead in the UK Swing’s third event from the second round – when he carded a course-record 62.
And the Nuneaton boy never relinquished his place at the summit.
A third round 64 handed the 34-year-old a five-stroke advantage heading into the final day at Hanbury Manor Marriott Hotel and Country Club, and he never let up on a frazzling final day as the thermometer headed to the high 80s.
An eagle three at the par five second hole quashed the early hopes of a determined chasing pack.
The latter included Spain’s two-time European Tour winner Adrian Otaegui, whose five-under front nine made him a leading contender for an upset.
Otaegui got to within two with six to play, but Sullivan picked up four shots down the stretch to seal the deal with a six-under par 65 and a 27-under total – winning by seven shots from the Spaniard.
Sullivan sheds a few tears after win
THE normally chirpy Sullivan was left sharing some tears after speaking to his family in a live video link after walking off the 18th
He said: “I’m proud of myself. I wasn’t quite stuck in the doldrums. But it just hasn’t quite happened for me since those three wins in 2015 – and it feels like a weight off my shoulders now… I think it told out there.
“I never really felt comfortable out on the golf course all day, I found it quite a battle the whole way around until I started dropping a couple of putts on the back nine and my lead started increasing.
“I was always on guard today, I knew Adrian was there breathing down my neck.
“But it’s nice to come down those last few holes and know the job was done.
“I got to the green at 12 and I saw him birdie that hole to get to within two so I knew that was going to be quite big.
“I holed it, and then had a great two-putt on the next and then two really good putts on 14 and 15 which were massive.”
Otaegui: Sully was at another level
OTAEGUI was looking for this third win on the Euorpean Tour – and his first since claiming the Belgian Knockout in 2018.
Adrian said: “I’m very happy with my round, very happy with my week overall.
“Obviously, congratulations to Andy, he’s played at just another level. The rounds he’s played this week were amazing.
“He played some very very good golf. But I’m very happy with my score, I had a very good start which was good.
“I was feeling very good. I was rolling the ball very well all week really and was feeling very confident.
“I holed some good putts for birdie today, saved a couple of pars as well. I had very good pace on the long putts as well. They were finishing quite close to the hole which is always quite good to tap it in. ”
The new champion, who won three times in 2015 – including twice in South Africa to earn a place in Darren Clarke’s Ryder Cup team at Hazeltine a year later – moved from 42nd to 15th in the Race to Dubai rankings.
It also moved him to the top of the UK Swing Order of Merit after three events.
The top 10 after the sixth and final tournament will share an additional £250,000 from the European Tour’s Golf for Good initiative, to donate to the charity of their choice.
The top 10 – not otherwise exempt after the fifth event – will also gain spots in the US Open at Winged Foot next month.
Brown beaten as the putts fail to drop at Ware course
SULLIVAN was paired with Wentworth’s Walker Cup team-mate Steven Brown, who finished on 17-under after seeing a number of putts brush the hole.
Brown, who played in the same Great Britain and Ireland team that beat the USA at Royal Aberdeen in 2011, as Sullivan, was looking for a second win, having claimed the Portugal Masters title in November.
That end-of-season win also saved his European Tour card.
Denmark’s Rasmus Højgaard was one shot further back in third in the English Championship, with young South African Wilco Nienaber on 18-under par, having got into the event as an alternative at the 11th hour.
Højgaard, who won a play-off in Mauritius in December, admitted a US Open debut was top of his priorties after securing his card as the third-youngest winner in European Tour history at just 18.
Rasmus said: “I think the last two days, my scoring has not been a low as I want it to be.
“But I’ve been fighting and grinding my way through the rounds and I’m happy to shoot a low one today.
“I’ve been consistent I guess. I’ve been having a good couple of weeks, happy with how my game is trending.
“Obviously that US Open spot is what I want right now and I have booked my ticket there now so I’m happy with that.”