After sliding down rankings, Andy Sullivan near early lead in Switzerland

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After sliding down rankings, Andy Sullivan near early lead in Switzerland

Euro Tour

After sliding down rankings, Andy Sullivan near early lead in Switzerland

What a difference two years makes. Ask Andy Sullivan.

The Englishman was a part of the Ryder Cup conversation in 2016. Not this year. He made the European team automatically for Hazeltine. Right now, he’s just trying to get his game back to a level where he could be fighting for future Ryder Cup appearances.

Sullivan has made a good start on that journey in the $2.9 million Omega European Masters in Switzerland. The 31-year-old returned an opening 65, 5 under, to sit in joint second place a shot behind Germany’s Maximillian Kieffer.

Three European Tour wins in 2015 helped make Sullivan one of a crop of young Englishmen who looked like shooting up the world order. While Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Fitzpatrick, Eddie Pepperell and Matt Wallace have increased their world status, Sullivan has slid down the pecking order.

Sullivan hasn’t won since those three 2015 victories, and has dropped from a high of 28th in February 2016 on the Official World Golf Ranking to his current rank of 120th. He was eighth on the European money list in 2015 and 14th in 2016, but dropped to 62nd last year. He’s 32nd this year after a season that has seen him record six top 10s.

However, three consecutive missed cuts brought an enforced layoff before Switzerland.

He began his round on the 10th tee and rattled off five birdies in six holes from the 12th to reach 5 under. Two bogeys offset two birdies in his back nine to keep him on 5 under.

“After three weeks off, it feels really good,” Sullivan said. “Got off to a really good start which is always nice and then finished with three good up-and-downs there to finish the round off when I thought like it was just getting away from me. So really pleased with that.

“I have been working really hard to getting back to where I was with the shape of the ball flight – it almost went to straight at one time – so I’ve gone back to trying to hit that two, three-yard lemonade (fade) and it’s coming back slowly. I feel like I’ve got more control throughout the bag again and the scores are starting to show that this year.”

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