SOUTHEND golfer Matthew Southgate produced his best ever performance to finish fourth in the Irish Open, just four shots off the winner Rory McIlroy.

The Thorpe Hall Golf Club member, ranked 794th in the world, produced an inspired display at the European Tour event in often difficult conditions at the K Club to close eight under par.

Southgate teed off with eventual winner McIlroy on Saturday and more than held his own with the world number three, with just one shot falling below one over par across the four days of play.

The 27-year-old had tears in his eyes as he finished with a birdie on the 18th hole to complete his best round of the weekend, and pocket 200,000 euros in the process, beating the likes of Masters champion Danny Willett.

The story is made more remarkable as just last July, Southgate was diagnosed with testicular cancer and had to undergo an operation before bouncing back in spectacular fashion to claim the sixth card at Qualifying School and earn his European Tour playing privileges.

And this result sees him leap from 148th to 51st in the season ending Race to Dubai.