Joy — and disappointment — for Phelan in Joburg

Joy — and disappointment — for Phelan in Joburg
Kevin Phelan

Kevin Phelan

The glass was half full rather than half empty for Kevin Phelan as he closed with a brilliant 66 to share second place behind Andy Sullivan in the Joburg Open. 

It was a career best finish for the former Walker Cup star and while he missed out on his maiden win, finishing two shots behind Sullivan at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington, and also missed out on one of three spots in The Open at St Andrews, a cheque for €80,600 eased the pain significantly.

Having lost his card last season, Phelan was playing just his third event of the 2015 season and he's jumped more than 100 places into the Top-60 in the Race to Dubai and gathering momentum for the Africa Open and the Twsane Open over the next two weeks.

There were three places in The Open at St Andrews on offer of the leading three players not already exempt. But with ties decided by a player's higher world ranking at the start of the week, world No 511 Phelan lost out with tournament winner Sullivan joined at the Home of Golf by world world No 130 David Howell and No 312 Anthony Wall.

The good news is that Phelan did enough to qualify for next week's Africa Open on the Sunshine Tour and no longer needs to play Tuesday's qualifier at Fish River Sun Country Club.

"I was just plodding along the first three days and played some nice golf and didn't hole many putts," Phelan  said shortly after signing his card. "But I got the putts to drop on the front nine and gave myself a chance. It doesn't look like I have done enough with a few lads coming in. But I am delighted with how I played. It was nice to have a chance coming in."

As for the three spots in The Open, he said: "I had forgotten about that actually. I was just trying to play as well as I could, so that would be a bonus. I played here last year and played quite nicely but ended up missing the cut... I am not even in next week yet (the Sunshine Tour's Africa Open at East London Golf Club), so if I finish top five year I will get in there."

Phelan, 24, was tied for 16th, just five shots behind leader Wallie Coetsee overnight. But he put his foot to the floor over the East Course in the final round, scorching to the turn in five under 32 with birdies at the first, third, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth against one bogey at the par-three second.

e droppped just one more shot, at the 14th, but made twos at the 12th and 16th to set the clubhouse target at 15 under par. 

In the end, Sullivan came through to take title, closing with a 66 to win by two from Phelan, Howell (69), Wall (68), Jaco Van Zyl (66) and Coetsee (71) on 17 under par for his second tour win.

The 27 year old former Walker Cup player picked up two birdies in his last four holes to clinch his second tour win in South Africa following his play-off win over Charl Schwartzel in the South African Championship Hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni in January.

The queue for €80,600 was the biggest of Phelan's career. His previous best finish and payday came in the last year's Hong Kong Open, where he got €64,546 for finishing third.