Alfred Dunhill Championship: Pablo Larrazabal prevails after dramatic final round

Pablo Larrazabal
Pablo Larrazabal

Pablo Larrazabal revealed he had taken inspiration from Tiger Woods after producing a remarkable turnaround to win the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.

Leaderboard

-8 Larrazabal

-7 Sjoholm

-6 Grace, Schwartzel, Besseling

-4 van Tonder


Day four report

Pablo Larrazabal revealed he had taken inspiration from Tiger Woods after producing a remarkable turnaround to win the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.

The Spaniard started the day three shots clear but struggled with blisters on his feet and swing problems throughout the final round.

He removed his shoes and threw a club in frustration after a wild hook down the left from the ninth tee, where he carded one of six bogeys as well as a double.

Those eight dropped shots saw the 36-year-old fall three off the pace at one stage but Larrazabal regrouped to make three birdies in his last four holes to seal victory with a 75 and eight-under-par total.

"I woke up this morning and I didn't think I was going to play," Larrazabal, who revealed Woods' victory at the 2008 US Open while suffering from a fractured tibia and damaged cruciate ligament had given him the motivation to continue, told Sky Sports.

"I couldn't put my shoe on, I couldn't walk to the buggy. I really struggled on the back nine, I have a big blister on my right toe and I said to myself 'If Tiger can win a US Open with a broken leg...' and I just fought hard."

Larrazabal bogeyed the first, third and fifth to swiftly hand Wil Besseling a share of the lead and, despite making an up-and-down from the sand at the driveable sixth for birdie, found water for the third day running at the short seventh and double bogeyed.

Further dropped shots followed at the eighth and ninth, where Larrazabal's second only avoided water because it hit an advertising board, to leave a fifth European Tour title looking in doubt as he turned in 41 to trail Besseling by two.

After a birdie at the 11th, Larrazabal had another wild hook at the 13th and bogeyed but with Besseling faltering with a double bogey at the 14th remained within touching distance of the lead.

Larrazabal and Besseling both birdied the 15th and the former then rolled in a 15-footer at the next to join the Dutchman and Sweden's Joel Sjoholm in the lead.

Sjoholm could not birdie the par-five last and, when Besseling's second nestled on rocks behind the green to lead to a bogey, Larrazabal was left with a tap-in birdie after a fine approach to seal victory.

Sjoholm finished second on seven under, with Besseling and South African pair Branden Grace and Charl Schwartzel a shot further back in third - the latter on his return from a seven-month injury lay-off.

Day Three report

Pablo Larrazabal had mixed emotions despite retaining his three-shot lead after the third round of the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.

The 36-year-old Spaniard carded a two-under-par 70 to advance to 11 under and remain three clear of Holland's Wil Besseling.

However, having at one stage threatened to surge clear in his bid for a fifth European Tour title, Larrazabal was disappointed as he made five at three of his last four holes.

"It's disappointing to finish with three fives in the last four holes but it was playing tricky," said Larrazabal, whose last win came back in 2015.

"I didn't play as good as yesterday but I played pretty solid. My game plan is not three fives in the last four, that's why I'm disappointed - obviously I'm happy with the lead.

"I hung in there and we will see; it will be a fun Sunday afternoon. If I shoot in the 60s these guys are going to have to put some run on (to catch) me tomorrow."

First-round leader Besseling remains second after matching Larrazabal's 70, with home favourite Branden Grace a shot further back in third after carding 71.

Larrazabal birdied the fourth and sixth but was struggling with his swing and found water for the second day running at the seventh.

An excellent third salvaged a bogey, but another wayward drive at the ninth was fortunate to stay dry and led to another dropped shot.

Larrazabal birdied the 10th and spectacularly chipped in at the 12th to reassert his dominance before holing from 20 feet on the 14th.

England's Marcus Armitage eagled the last to share fourth on five under with South African Zander Lombard.

Day Two report

Spain's Pablo Larrazabal felt his patience was rewarded after claiming the halfway lead in testing conditions in the Alfred Dunhill Championship.

Larrazabal was one of just five players in the 156-man field to break 70 at Leopard Creek, a 69 leaving the 36-year-old on nine under par, three shots ahead of home favourite Branden Grace and overnight leader Wil Besseling.

"It was a good job," said Larrazabal, who again declined the option to play in shorts due to the extreme heat.

"It wasn't an easy day, the wind was swirling around and gusting so on this golf course, as tight as the targets are, it was tough.

"We're used to the heat and the wind helped to control the heat a little bit. The golf course wasn't playing easy. To take the right club today was very tricky and the greens are drying."

Seeking a fifth European Tour title and a first since 2015, Larrazabal double bogeyed the par-three seventh after hitting his tee shot into the water, but started the back nine with four-straight birdies, including from 80 feet on the 12th.

"I did a big mistake on the seventh, I didn't trust what my game plan was and made a double bogey, but I thought I'm playing well enough to start making birdies again so that's what I did," Larrazabal added.

"I had a lot of patience out there. I know I am playing good, I know I am playing aggressive enough to make birdies and get in a run and if I am patient, the putts are going to drop."

England's Marcus Armitage, who regained his playing rights via the qualifying school recently, is five shots off the lead after a second-consecutive 70 left him four under par alongside compatriot Jack Singh Brar and South Africa's Thomas Aiken.

Scotland's David Drysdale and Grant Forrest, who began the day three shots off the lead, struggled to rounds of 77 and 79 respectively but made the halfway cut which fell at three over par.

Day One report

Besseling carded an eagle, six birdies and a solitary bogey at Leopard Creek to finish seven under par, a shot ahead of England's Garrick Porteous, Spain's Pablo Larrazabal and South Africa's Keith Horne.

"I played nicely," said Besseling, who narrowly missed out on a full European Tour card for this season after finishing 18th on the Challenge Tour.

"It's a great start for the season and a great round. I had it going nicely on the par fives. I was able to get there in two with irons and converted the birdies, and an eagle on 15 really helped."

Larrazabal, who was one of a handful of players who turned down the option to wear shorts in competition for the first time in the high temperatures at Kruger National Park, had an eagle, five birdies and one bogey in his 66.

"First round of the season I don't think I'm ready to go with shorts," the four-time European Tour winner said. "It's more for pro-ams or practice rounds to chill out with friends, but as a competitive round I didn't feel like it and it worked.

"We've played in a lot worse than this, we played in Singapore and Malaysia. This is hot but it's not that bad. We're not going to die.

"As a Spaniard I grew up in the city, so to come to the bush is something special I discovered through the years on tour. I love the nature, I love the wildlife and this is paradise.

"We have one of the best golf courses you can play and Leopard Creek only has one very, very bad thing - it's too far from Barcelona! I would have a place here if this was five or six hours from home."

Spain's Alejandro Canizares is two shots off the lead after a 67, with England's Jack Singh Brar and the Scottish duo of David Drysdale and Grant Forrest among a seven-strong group on four under par.

Forrest reached seven under after 11 holes but stumbled over the closing stretch and ran up a triple-bogey seven on the eighth, while last year's runner-up Drysdale had five birdies and one bogey in his 68.

Former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel carded a two-under-par 70 in his first round since April due to a wrist injury.

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