Andy Sullivan fires 61 in Dubai as he stops being an 'idiot'

Andy Sullivan led the way in a low-scoring start to the inaugural Golf in Dubai Championship presented by DP World then revealed he’d stopped being an “idiot” on the golf course.

Andy Sullivan shows off scorecard after his course-record 61 in the first round of the Golf in Dubai Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates. Picture: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Andy Sullivan shows off scorecard after his course-record 61 in the first round of the Golf in Dubai Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates. Picture: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

The 33-year-old Englishman carded 11 birdies in a bogey-free 61 on the Fire Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates to set a blistering pace in the first leg of a Dubai double-header at the end of the European Tour season.

Sullivan’s sensational effort, which included six birdies on the spin around the turn, earned him a two-shot lead over compatriots Matt Wallace and Ross Fisher, as well as Frenchman Antoine Rozner.

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“It’s funny,” Sullivan, a former Scottish Open Stroke-Play champion, in an interview with Sky Sports Golf afterwards. “I played the front nine yesterday and I played the back nine a year ago when we came over to warm up.

“You do all this prep on these courses and try and work out where to hit it, but, this week, I turned up and clattered it down and found myself being ridiculous under par through seven or eight holes on my front nine. You think ‘here we go’.”

The four-time European Tour winner was in with a chance of becoming just the second player after fellow Englishman Oli Fisher to card a 59 on the circuit with two holes to play.

But he was an inch away from rolling in a monster birdie putt at the par-3 eighth - his 17th hole - before also having to settle for a par at the last.

“I changed my putting routine with Mike yesterday and it’s helped me trust my instincts more instead of second guessing myself which really helped. The putter was extremely hot today.”

Sullivan, who played on the winning GB&I Walker Cup team at Royal Aberdeen in 2011, was on a hot run of form when he recorded three victories in 2015 to get into the Ryder Cup team at Hazeltine the following year.

But his game had gone off the boil until returning to ways in the English Championship at Hanbury Manor in August, admitting that the Covid-19 lockdown earlier this year had proved a turning point in his career.

“Covid really changed everything for me,” said Sullivan. “I had time to sit down and reflect on how I was being on the golf course.

“I was being an idiot. It’s not nice to say that about yourself. I could think about what I wanted from the game and where I wanted to go with it.

“I refocused and started enjoying it again. I’ve started to play a lot better. Going out there and enjoying it, I know I’m giving myself the best chance to shoot a low score.”

Sullivan sits 33rd in this season’s Race to Dubai, so has already secured his spot in next week’s DP World Tour Championship on the Earth Course at the same venue.

“I’ve always played pretty tidy here on the other course, and it’s nice to get off to a flier on this one,” he said.

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