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Larrazábal pulls off epic recovery

Larrazábal pulls off epic recovery

Pablo Larrazábal produced a remarkable comeback to win his fifth European Tour title after a dramatic finale at the Alfred Dunhill Championship.

Pablo Larrazábal

The Spaniard started the day three shots clear but struggled with blisters and swing problems throughout the final round at Leopard Creek, carding six bogeys and a double bogey to fall three shots behind at one stage.

However, the 36-year-old regrouped to make three birdies in his last four holes to seal victory with a 75 and eight under par total.

That was one better than Sweden’s Joel Sjöholm, who completed a remarkable weekend effort with a 69.

Dutchman Wil Besseling held at least a share of the lead for most of the final round but bogeyed the last after his second shot finished on rocks behind the green and a 74 left him tied for third with home favourites Branden Grace and Charl Schwartzel.

“I woke up this morning and I didn’t think I was going to play,” said Larrazábal. “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.”

Larrazábal had gone four-and-a-half years without a European Tour victory and added: “It’s been a long road the last few years and this is where I want to be. 

“I want to thank all my family and my wife. This is a place that I really love and I will come back until I cannot play anymore. 

“Being a winner again means so much. I’ve been working hard, I put as many hours in as I’ve put in in my golfing career and this is what for.” 

Larrazábal missed the green with his approach to the first, bogeyed the third after a wild drive down the right and failed to reach the green with a chip from a bunker at the short fifth to drop another shot and hand Besseling a share of the lead.

There was some relief for the 36-year-old as he made an up-and-down from the sand at the driveable sixth for birdie, but Besseling converted form six feet on the same hole to keep the pair locked together.

A bogey was enough to give Besseling the outright lead at the seventh as Larrazábal found water for the third day running and double bogeyed.

Besseling went from sand to thick bushes down the left of the eighth and bogeyed – but remarkably still led as Larrazábal missed a par effort from seven feet.

Larrazábal duck hooked his tee shot left at the ninth and his second only avoided water because it hit an advertising board but despite that slice of fortune, he could only make bogey to turn in 41.

Besseling missed a birdie chance at the tenth from five feet, but both he and Larrazábal got up-and-down for gains at the driveable 11th.

Larrazábal had another wild hook at the 13th, found a bunker with his third after taking a drop and bogeyed.

He ventured left off the tee again at the 14th but recovered well and almost chipped in for birdie, as Besseling carded a double bogey after going from sand to water with his second to leave Sjöholm in the lead on seven under.

Besseling reached the 15th green in two and birdied to draw level at the top of the leaderboard but Larrazábal also converted from six feet at to be only one back, then rolled in a 15 footer at the next to make it a three-way tie at the top.

Schwartzel fired an iron to within six feet with his second to the 18th but missed out on a second eagle of the day to effectively end his challenge on his return from a seven-month injury lay-off.

Grace was unable to find the birdie he needed over the closing holes despite several good chances and Lombard’s challenge ended when he found water with his approach to the last.

Besseling almost suffered same fate but could only putt his third from rocks into the rough and after failing to get up-and-down Larrazábal, who laid up and fired his third in close, was able to tap-in for victory.

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