SUN CITY (South Africa), Nov 14 — An emotional Tommy Fleetwood celebrated a first tour victory in three years on Sunday as he defied illness to win the Nedbank Golf Challenge at the Gary Player Country Club.

The 31-year-old Englishman had been unsure if he could compete at the Sun City tournament, dubbed ‘Africa’s major’, which he won when it was last hosted in 2019, before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It was touch and go on Thursday morning,” Fleetwood said. “Then Saturday when we were up early and I felt like I had nothing in me. I was really poorly again.

“The doctor here has been amazing. I just gave his little son the winning golf ball. Without him there was not a chance on Thursday I’d have played,” he added.

The second round started on Friday but had to be completed on Saturday after an intense Highveld storm saw the golfers taken off the course because of fears of lightning.

On Sunday, inclement weather saw play again halted for several hours, disturbing the rhythm of some players but not Fleetwood who came storming down the final nine to win by a stroke from New Zealander Ryan Fox.

“We didn’t know what was happening, whether it would be three rounds, so I just thought if I could keep moving, keep playing… and I was playing well.

“It wasn’t overly stressful for me and I just had in my mind to keep going and you never know what happens,” he said after a tearful victory ceremony.

Fox missed out on a chance to go top of the tour rankings before the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai next week when he bogeyed the last hole to finish one shot behind in second place.

“I played great and didn’t miss a shot until the 18th,” Fox said. “I certainly would’ve like to have played the 18th a little bit better and made Tommy work a little bit harder, but it’s an incredibly tough golf course to play down the stretch.

“All of us were there or thereabouts with three holes to play, but Tommy was the one who held it together. Fair play to him. If you had given me second at the start of the week, I definitely would’ve taken it,” he added. — Reuters