Larrazabal hails big win

Pablo Larrazabal said his hard work over the winter had paid off with victory in the Abu Dhabi Championship on Sunday.

With Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson breathing down his neck, the Spaniard holed a nerve-wracking putt for birdie at the final hole to secure his third victory on the European Tour.

The 30-year-old admitted the circumstances of the success gave him a lot of pride.

"I beat two of the three most talented guys in my era," said Larrazabal, who likened his birdie putt on the 18th to the par putt holed by Martin Kaymer to retain the Ryder Cup at Medinah in 2012.

"The first win in France my brother says was the win of talent. I had 100 putts in 72 holes, not even the best Tiger Woods could have beaten me that week.

"The second win in Munich (in a play-off with Sergio Garcia) was one of belief. This is the win of hard work and team work. I worked so hard for the last two years and over the winter and I beat two of the three most talented guys in my era."

McIlroy and Mickelson were left to rue their misfortune - particularly the former who was penalised two shots for a rules infringement in his third round when he took an incorrect drop.


"I can't describe (how frustrating it is)," said McIlroy. "I feel like I'm standing here and I should be 15-under par for the tournament and win by one, but that's the way it goes. I played the least shots of anyone this week. I can count it as a moral victory more than anything else.

"It's a very positive start to the season so I'm not going to let one little negative ruin that. I'm driving the ball well, hitting the ball solid and giving myself plenty of chances for birdies. And if I can keep doing that, the wins will come.

"But Pablo played very well. 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 top drawer, so fair play to him. He's a good guy, one of my closer friends out here and good to see him get the win."

Mickelson said he was left with option but to play a shot from the bushes at the 13th hole right-handed - a decision that back-fired when the ball came back off a branch and hit the club, meaning an extra shot, on the way to a seven.

"It never crossed my mind it might double-hit," the left-hander said. "I was just trying to dribble it out of the bush, to move it about 10ft and I felt it was worth the risk. I wanted to use a lob wedge but had to turn around a four iron as I was having trouble seeing the club at address.

"My two option, to take the ball and go back as far as I want in line with the pin, didn't give me a shot. It was just bushes extending all the way back and I wouldn't have had a shot except to go back to the tee box.

"I got refocused 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 play-off, so I give him a lot of credit for finishing the tournament off the right way."