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One Shot Winner: Pablo Larrazabal wins Abu Dhabi Championship
Pablo Larrazabal composed himself enough to birdie the final hole at the Abu Dhabi Championship on Sunday and win by one shot.
The Spaniard finished on 14 under (67), a single stroke ahead of major winners Rory McIlroy (68) and Phil Mickelson (69).
Mickelson was looking good until he fell back following a triple-bogey at the par-four 13th when leading; although McIlroy couldn’t take advantage of the mistake as he too was left to rue after picking up a two-shot penalty in round three.
Two years ago McIlroy was penalised two shots in his second round in Abu Dhabi for brushing away some sand which was not on the green, but which actually lied between his golf ball and the flag. On that occasion he finished the game in second place, one behind eventual surprise winner Robert Rock.
McIlroy said after the game: "I feel like I'm standing here and I should be 15-under par and win by one.
"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."
Phil Mickelson also inflicted his own wounds, as he was leading the pack by one when he attempted to hit a right-handed escape shot from under a bush, resulting in a ‘double-hit’ when the golf ball struck the bush and came bouncing back on to his golf club.
"It never crossed my mind it might double-hit," Lefty said. "I was just trying to dribble it out of the bush, to move it about ten feet 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."
Mickelson still showed why he’s one of the best in the game by tearing back into the contest with birdies on the 14th and 16th, but he was unable to find the eagle he needed on the 18th to force a play-off with Larrazabal.
McIlroy played alongside Larrazabal and the pair were together on under three for the day after playing 11 holes, but when McIlroy stalled with a run of seven straight pars, Larrazabal birdied the 13th and hit two wonderful shots to the heart of the 18th green to set up the decisive birdie.
McIlroy added: "Pablo played very well. I can't take anything away from him. He needed to he hit the shots and the two 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 it's good to see him get the win."
A thrilled Larrazabal told the BBC: "I worked so hard for the last two years and over the winter. I beat two of the three most talented guys in my era."
Abu Dhabi Championship Final Leaderboard
-14: P Larrazabal (Spa) -13: R McIlroy (NI), Mickelson (US) -12: G Coetzee (SA), R Cabrera-Bello (Spa) -10: J Luiten (Fra) -9: J Carlsson (Swe) Selected others: -7 C Lee (Sco) MA Jimenez (Spa); -2 C Montgomerie (Sco)