Andy Sullivan knows 2015 will be tough to top

06 Jan 2016 15:23

Andy Sullivan admits he has a tough act to follow as he looks to build on a brilliant 2015 campaign which brought three wins and secured a Masters debut.

Sullivan was ranked 150th in the world before winning his first European Tour title in the BMW SA Open last year, but returns to Glendower ranked 34th after collecting two further victories.

The 29-year-old from Nuneaton claimed his second win in Johannesburg in the space of eight weeks in the Joburg Open and also won the Portugal Masters in October before pushing Rory McIlroy all the way in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

That meant former supermarket shelf-stacker Sullivan finished eighth on the Race to Dubai and he is currently fourth in Ryder Cup qualifying ahead of the biennial contest against the United States from September 30 to October 2 at Hazeltine.

"Last year was unbelievable," Sullivan told European Tour Radio ahead of his title defence. "I'm not going to stand here and say that I'm going to try and win four tournaments this year because I know how hard it was to win three.

"My goals are to improve as a player and I know if I can improve as a player and manage myself better, I'm going to give myself the best chance to achieve as much as I can in this game. I learned that a lot last year with my wins.

"I felt like the times I could play well last year I managed myself really well, was really chirpy on the course, I wasn't beating myself up about hitting bad shots. I felt like I learned last year that players who don't win tournaments are scared of being inconsistent where I'm not scared of being inconsistent.

"I know that golf is not a perfect game and I wasn't scared to go out there and play badly, I knew I could still get it round in a number and I think that is what the best guys do. I think I learned that last year and it has put me in great stead for this year."

A third round of 74 left halfway leader Sullivan seven shots behind Charl Schwartzel 12 months ago, but the tables were turned in the final round as former Masters champion Schwartzel suffered a late collapse and Sullivan's closing 67 ensured a play-off was required.

Sullivan then produced a brilliant birdie from the trees on the first extra hole to clinch a dramatic victory and added: "It's nice to come back to where you've won before. Walking round yesterday just reminiscing on shots that I hit on the back nine and in that play-off, they're just fantastic feelings.

"When I got in that play-off, I felt like I was happy to be there and Charl was a bit frustrated. So I thought, as much experience as he had, I had the upper hand almost."

Sullivan played in three of the four majors in 2015, with a best finish of 30th in the Open at St Andrews, and is relishing a first trip to Augusta National after receiving his official invitation before Christmas.

"When you get that invite on paper it's like you're there and you've got it," he added. "It's an absolutely incredible feeling just to open that and it's the best bit of post I've ever had."

Major champions Ernie Els and Trevor Immelman lead the home challenge at Glendower, with tournament host Els revealing Rory McIlroy is due to play next year in return for Els contesting last year's Irish Open, which is hosted by McIlroy.

"I thought I'll leave him this year, but definitely next year we'll get him down here, maybe put him up in Cape Town, have a good new year down there, and get him to come and play here," Els said.