Since then, he’s plummeted down the rankings. From his highest of 29th in February 2016, he’s dropped to 145th. That will likely rise when the new rankings are released following a tied sixth finish at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic last weekend.
But Sullivan freely admits he let his standards slip following “too much success, too soon”, something he is determined not to let happen again as he eyes a return to the top.
“I just didn’t work hard enough,” Sullivan, 31, told Sport360, bluntly, following a -16 under par 272 that earned him a €47,401 (Dh216,359) Dubai payday. A bogey on the last robbed him of double that.
“I got to a Ryder Cup pretty quickly and won tournaments pretty quickly and I think I took my foot off the gas. I’ve just got to keep working really hard because these boys are ready to overtake you straight away.
“I definitely did (let my standards slip), I put my hands up to that. You’ve got to keep working hard and credit to Rory (McIlroy) and the guys at the top, they keep working harder and getting better.
“You learn from your mistakes and I’m going to continue to work hard and keep myself up there.
“You get that feeling of being in the last few groups and having a sniff. It didn’t quite happen (on Sunday) but it’s nice to be in there and the more you do it, the more comfortable it feels.
“It’s something I didn’t do and I’ve had to take a few steps back to get where I want to go.”
Where the Englishman wants to go is to a second Ryder Cup, after getting a taste of golf’s greatest competition two years ago in Hazeltine.
Sullivan’s first win on tour came in January 2015 at the South African Open. Success quickly followed with wins at the Joburg Open in March and October’s Portugal Masters – the first player to record three victories on tour that year.
He was one of eight automatic selections on captain Darren Clarke’s team as Europe lost 17-11 – handing America victory for the first time since 2008.
And he’s desperate to get back there, as well as make up for lost time.
“Everything’s going in the right direction,” he said.
“I’m starting to get back to my best. I feel like my game’s in really solid shape, it’s confidence going forward and hopefully I can take that into what I’m doing for the rest of the season and make a push for this Ryder Cup.
“Once you’ve played one you don’t want to miss any. I want to play as many as I can. I know it’s going to be a tough ask for me to get in. I will have to put in a lot of good performances between now and July/August, but the game’s going in the right direction.
“I feel a lot more comfortable on the golf course now than I did at the end of last year. I didn’t have a lot of confidence. I put a lot of hard work in over the seven weeks I had off, have come back a lot stronger and fitter and I’m ready to go.
“It’s a nice feeling because I didn’t enjoy it much last year and now the game’s coming back I’m starting to enjoy it again which is only going to help me play my best golf.”
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