Andy Sullivan makes move as Joakim Lagergren triumphs at Sicilian Open

MUSCAT, OMAN - FEBRUARY 15: Andy Sullivan of England walking off of the 9th gree during the first round of the NBO Oman Open at Al Mouj Golf on February 15, 2018 in Muscat, Oman. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images) Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Andy Sullivan makes move as Joakim Lagergren triumphs at Sicilian Open

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Andy Sullivan makes move as Joakim Lagergren triumphs at Sicilian Open

The European Tour is littered with players who glittered brightly for a few seasons only to lose their spark and never regain it. Andy Sullivan will be hoping he isn’t one of them.

A T-3 finish in Rocco Forte Sicilian Open could be the start of the comeback that takes him back up the world order.

Sullivan finished joint third with Australian Lucas Herbert, one shot out of a playoff with Sweden’s Joakim Lagergren and Mike Lorenzo-Vera of France, which Lagergren won.

Sullivan won three times in 2015, the only player that year with that many European Tour titles. He finished eighth in the Race to Dubai that year. He reached a high of 28th in the Official World Golf Ranking in February 2016, made his Ryder Cup debut that year and finished 14th in the Race to Dubai even though he didn’t win.

He made his Players Championship debut in 2016. He probably thought back then he’d appear regularly in the so-called fifth major. But he missed the Players the last two years after tumbling down the European pecking order. He ranked 62nd last year after posting just one top-10 finish, eighth in the Nordea Masters. That’s why he was in Sicily last week instead of Sawgrass.

The genial Englishman might have won in Sicily if he’d played better in the second round, when all he could manage was even-par 72. Still, the signs are there that Sullivan is getting back on his game.

Sicily was his third top-10 this season to go with sixth in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and seventh in the Trophée Hassan II. He’s made the cut in each of his nine events and is desperate to get back to winning ways.

“It’s been long overdue for me, really,” Sullivan said. “I feel like I’ve not hit the heights of 2015-16, so I think it’s time for me to really push on and try to get myself back on the right side of the leaderboard, get in the mix and enjoy the weekends more.”

Sullivan isn’t the first player to win three times in one season then struggle. Sweden’s Johan Edfors did it in 2006 and hasn’t won since.

The Englishman is a far better player than Edfors. The smart money says Sullivan will win again, and maybe soon. Perhaps this season?

Edfors is yet another Swede who looked like being a world beater only to disappear. Remember Pierre Fulke? He won three times between 1999 and 2000 and made the 2002 Ryder Cup team. Then he went AWOL. Going further back, there was Ove Sellberg, another three-time winner. He racked up those wins between 1986 and 1990, and there was talk of him being Sweden’s first major winner. He finally gave up the game in the mid 1990s to become a European Tour referee.

Hopefully Lagergren won’t suffer the same fate. European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn doesn’t think so. “That’s definitely been coming for a while!! Well done @JoakimLagergren – huge talent, huge future.” Bjorn tweeted.

Lagergren finished third in the Trophée Hassan II three weeks ago. Last year he lost a playoff to Jeunghun Wang in the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.

“When you’re just missing out a few times you really want to get that first win, and it feels like you really need to get over that first step to then really continue and get more and more,” Lagergren said. “This is a big step for me.”

And for Sullivan. The Englishman looks to have his mojo back. It’ll be interesting to watch his progress over the rest of the season. Gwk

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