Sunshine Tour

Larrazabal battles through pain to triumph at Leopard Creek

2019-12-01 17:34
Pablo Larrazabal (AFP)

Cape Town -  It nearly unravelled for Pablo Larrazabal on Sunday in the Alfred Dunhill Championship, but he regained his composure to card three birdies in his final four holes at Leopard Creek to pull off a thrilling single-stroke victory.

The Spaniard had to shut out the pain of blisters on his feet, which may or may not have been the cause of his poor opening nine of six-over-par 41, to mount a comeback charge and haul in Swede Joel Sjoholm and Wil Besseling of the Netherlands with his closing nine of three-under 34 and take his fifth European Tour title.

“This morning, I couldn’t put my shoe on, I couldn’t walk to the buggy and I thought I wouldn’t be able to play because I had blisters,” he said.

“On the front nine, I was playing the worst golf of my career, and I just decided to put my heart into it on the back nine.”

Although he was visibly still battling the pain, he pulled himself together after tossing his driver aside after a poor tee-shot on the ninth, and pulling off his shoes and tossing them away in a frustrated gesture.

“I couldn’t go through with my shots because I couldn’t put weight on my right big toe, so I figured out if I lifted it, I could make something happen - just put the ball on the fairway, or near the fairway, and I might be able to do something,” he said.

It paid dividends almost immediately with a birdie on the short par-four 11th. But the comeback seemed as if it might be short-lived when he bogeyed the 13th, the signature Leopard Creek par-five which was playing very easy on the final day.

But a hard-fought par on 14, a birdie on the par-five 15th, a rare birdie on the par-3 17th over the water, a good par on 17 and then an exquisite pitch to inside two feet on the iconic par-five 18th with his third shot saw him able to get his nose in front after he had quickly blown his overnight three-stroke edge with five bogeys and a double in the opening nine.

Sjoholm, who was second-reserve for the tournament, and decided to travel to South Africa in any case - “I could watch lions for a week if I didn’t get in,” he said - was given a last-minute invitation into the field and he fully justified the decision. His final round of 69 had just a single bogey, unusual on a day when only 19 of the 71 players who made the cut were able to break par.

Besseling fought to the bitter end with his closing 74, and finished up sharing third with four-time Alfred Dunhill Championship winner Charl Schwartzel and 2014 champions Branden Grace.

Larrazabal has loved Leopard Creek since he first came here, and the bravery with which he fought for the victory and the emotion that spilled over after he won showed how much he loves it.

“To be king of the bushveld for a year is very special,” he said.

“I played my first tournament here, and I will come back here until I can’t play anymore.

“I’ve been struggling with my game for the last four years, and to finally get the win in paradise is very special.”

Scores:

280 - Pablo Larrazabal 66 69 70 75

281 - Joel Sjoholm 70 74 68 69

282 - Charl Schwartzel 70 72 70 70, Branden Grace 68 70 71 73, Wil Besseling 65 73 70 74

284 - Daniel van Tonder 68 75 73 68

285 - Justin Harding 70 73 71 71, Johannes Veerman 72 71 70 72, MJ Viljoen 72 71 69 73, Zander Lombard 72 70 69 74

286 - Connor Syme 69 75 73 69, Garrick Porteous 66 75 75 70

287 - Calum Hill 73 73 71 70

288 - Jonathan Caldwell 74 69 74 71, Robin Roussel 68 75 74 71, Jaco Van Zyl 69 72 75 72, Richard Sterne 70 74 72 72, Laurie Canter 71 73 70 74

289 - Christiaan Basson 71 74 77 67, Renato Paratore 74 71 75 69, Eddie Pepperell 71 73 72 73

290 - Dylan Naidoo 71 72 76 71, Alex Haindl 71 72 76 71

291 - Jack Harrison 71 72 78 70, Lars van Meijel 74 70 76 71, Alejandro Canizares 67 77 74 73, Clement Sordet 72 75 71 73, Keith Horne 66 79 72 74, Daniel Greene 72 73 72 74, Wilco Nienaber 72 73 72 74, George Coetzee 73 71 72 75, Jaco Ahlers 72 72 72 75

292 - Edoardo Molinari 74 73 72 73, Thomas Aiken 68 72 78 74, Adrian Otaegui 69 72 71 80

293 - Adrien Saddier 71 73 78 71, Jacques Blaauw 73 73 74 73, Antoine Rozner 74 67 78 74, Benjamin Poke 73 72 72 76, Jack Singh Brar 68 72 75 78, David Drysdale 68 77 70 78

294 - Lorenzo Gagli 74 70 80 70, Pedro Figueiredo 72 74 77 71, Matthieu Pavon 71 72 78 73, Jayden Schaper 73 73 70 78, Richard Bland 76 71 69 78, Adrian Meronk 69 76 70 79, Marcus Armitage 70 70 71 83

295 - Thriston Lawrence 77 68 79 71, Matthew Jordan 69 74 80 72, Rasmus Hojgaard 72 70 78 75, Hennie Otto 78 68 74 75, Jeff Winther 75 72 72 76, Gregory Havret 72 72 70 81

296 - JC Ritchie 72 71 79 74, James Morrison 72 71 78 75, Grant Forrest 68 79 73 76, Haydn Porteous 73 71 75 77

297 - Brandon Stone 72 75 78 72, David Law 72 75 76 74

298 - Oliver Wilson 73 73 77 75, Adilson Da Silva 70 76 75 77, Martin Rohwer 69 75 76 78

299 - Toby Tree 70 73 81 75, Keenan Davidse 76 71 76 76, Ernie Els 74 73 75 77, Lee Slattery 72 75 73 79

302 - Carlos Pigem 74 71 81 76

307 - Niklas Lemke 72 73 88 74, Ross Fisher 74 73 81 79

308 - Oliver Bekker 73 71 80 84

- Sunshine Tour

Read more on:    pablo larrazabal  |  golf

 

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