Pablo Larrazabal understood his accomplishment in edging Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy to win the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship on Sunday.
“I was sitting at the presentation ceremony, I said to myself: 'Pablo? What are you doing here?' I've got Rory McIlroy on my left and I am shaking the hand of Phil Mickelson on my right. It's very special for me,” said the 30-year-old Spaniard, who finished at 14-under 274 to earn his third PGA Europe Tour victory.
Larrazabal birdied No. 18 to finish the final round with a five-under-par 67 on the National Course in the United Arab Emirates, taking the title by one stroke over his more accomplished competitors.
Mickelson, who was making his 2014 debut, watched his championship hopes fade at No. 13 when he double hit a ball from the brush to incur a one-shot penalty. He finished the hole with a triple-bogey seven to let the lead slip from his grasp, although he was still in the chase until Larrazabal's final-hole birdie.
“I was just trying to dribble it out of the bush because I couldn't get the unplayable penalty lie to give me a shot without stroke and distance and I felt it was worth the risk," said Mickelson, a five-time Grand Slam event winner who had a final-round 69. "It not only cost a penalty shot, but it also stopped the ball from going to a spot where I could hit again.
“So after that, I got refocused and got aggressive and made some birdies and gave myself a chance. If Pablo had not birdied the last hole to win, I would have gotten into a playoff ... so I give him a lot of credit for finishing the tournament off the right way."
McIlroy was left to lament a two-shot penalty on Saturday, when he took improper relief from a spectator crossing path by hitting the shot while his foot was on the border line of the drop area. He started the day in fourth place instead of second, from where his final-round 68 could have been worthy of a win.
"I can't describe how frustrating it is and feeling like I should be standing here at 15 under par for the tournament and winning by one," said McIlroy, a 24-year-old from Northern Ireland with two major victories. “But Pablo played well, and I can't take anything away from him. When he needed to, he hit the shots, and the two shots he hit into 18 were straight out of the drawer, so fair play to him."
George Coetzee of South Africa tied for the second-best final round at 66 to finish tied for fifth at 12-under 276 with Spain's Rafa Cabrera-Bello, who shot a final-round 68. Joost Luiten of the Netherlands was sixth at 10-under 278 while Sweden's Johan Carlsson, who had the day's best round at 65, was seventh at nine-under 279.
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