Graeme Storm recalls the fight with Rory McIlroy that led to a ‘surreal’ US PGA adventure
There aren’t many players who can boast of beating Rory McIlroy in a play-off and leading a major championship, but Graeme Storm is a proud member of this exclusive club.
Victory over McIlroy came on the third extra hole at the 2017 South African Open in Johannesburg, 83 days after Storm lost his European Tour card by just €100.
It was the Hartlepool pro’s second win on the circuit, his first at the 2007 French Open, and six weeks later he finally secured his US PGA Championship debut at Southern Hills.
As temperatures hit triple figures in Tulsa, Storm started his opening round on the back nine with back-to-back birdies, racking up more shots on the 13th and 16th to reach the corner in Four Under.
The former amateur championship winner could only find one birdie in the front nine, but a bogey-free 65 gave him a two-shot lead over two-time major winner John Daly, while defending champion Tiger Woods carded a 71.
“It was 102 degrees and about 80 percent humidity and it was like Malaysia but hotter,” Storm told the PA news agency. “I think I played eight weeks in a row so I struggled.
“After playing the Open I shouldn’t have played against Deutsche Bank but it was a big event and I felt like I’m still in good shape and wanted to keep playing until I ran out of gas and I probably ran out of gas flint.
“So to be at the top of the rankings after the first round of the US PGA the following week was a little like, ‘How did that happen?’
“The golf course suited me. You didn’t have to hit it far, it was quite narrow. I played pretty well that day but then everything settled down because I had to do all the press.
“I’ve been asked questions about Tiger Woods, about all these different people. I did a full seated press conference, then every other TV station, then radio.
“It was quite surreal and I can understand why the best players in the world have their agents there to say ‘enough is enough’ – it was just a little too much so I had no rest, no time to chill out .
“Because I was off late Thursday and early Friday, I got home in the dark and got back to the golf course in the dark.
“When I got back to the hotel I got some room service around 10pm and tried to watch some TV to unwind but all the channels were golf and my name kept popping up.
“I didn’t get much sleep that night and was worried about missing my wake-up call, which I don’t usually think about, but obviously when you’re managing a major it’s different.”
The alert was essential as Storm was in the first group on Friday morning and after bogeys on the second and third responded with birdies on the next two holes to restore his overnight lead.
However, a bogey on the seventh was followed by a double bogey closest and Storm eventually signed for a 76 to fall seven shots behind Woods, who shot 63 and birdied on the last to card the lowest round in majors history.
Further rounds of 74 and 78 meant Storm ended the week with a tie in 62nd place and also only had 13 clubs in his bag for the trip home.
“As a week as a whole it’s been a great week, you’re looked after so well and I’ve enjoyed it,” added Storm. “But I remember getting a little mad at myself towards the end.
“I remember going out on Sunday the 18th and I gave my putter to a little boy because I putt badly over the weekend and I was just like, ‘Come on son, you have that, it’s not good for me ‘.
“Someone has a nice ‘Yes!’ putter hidden somewhere.”
Storm still has the jersey he wore in the first round, as well as those from his victories at the Amateur Championship, France and South Africa, but has yet to have them framed to display at home.
More pressing is his current form after several years plagued by a wrist injury that required multiple surgeries and caused him to miss the entire 2019 season.
“I had nerves severed in my wrist, so I can’t hit certain shots that I used to be able to,” Storm said. “There is good stuff in there, but also a lot of bad stuff.
“I’ve played 485 tournaments and would love to get to 500, but I’m not going to kill myself financially trying to chase something that’s not going to happen. There’s a little bit of fire left, but I don’t know how much.”
https://www.independent.ie/sport/golf/graeme-storm-recalls-battle-with-rory-mcilroy-leading-to-surreal-us-pga-adventure-41654827.html Graeme Storm recalls the fight with Rory McIlroy that led to a ‘surreal’ US PGA adventure