MALELANE, South Africa (Reuters) – Pablo Larrazabal birdied the 18th hole to claim a one-shot victory at the European Tour’s Alfred Dunhill Championship on Sunday, having overcome a blister that left him battling to walk and a horror front nine.
Larrazabal’s final-round 75 at Leopard Creek Country Club gave him a tournament total of eight under-par, one shot ahead of Sweden’s Joel Sjoholm (69) in second.
Yet the Spaniard admitted that he woke up on Sunday believing he would not be able to play as a blister left him struggling even to put on his shoes.
“I could not walk or put my shoe on, I could not walk to the buggy or the putting green. I really struggled all day, I have a big blister on my big toe,” he said.
The Spaniard held a three-shot lead going into the final round, but five bogeys and a double-bogey on his front nine saw him turn back towards the clubhouse with a six-over-par score of 41.
Yet he tightened up his game on the putting green on the back nine, and after birdies on the 11th, 15th and 16th, chipped an iron to within five feet of the hole on the 18th to sink the winning putt.
It is his fifth title on tour, but first since 2015 when he lifted the BMW International Open.
“I have really struggled the last four years, but this is where I want to be,” a clearly emotional Larrazabal said. “I knew that I had the back nine all week. Those par fives, I had them. I kept struggling (to walk), but I put in some heart. To be a winner again means so much.
“I thank my family and my wife. So many people that have trusted me down the years.
“To win in paradise is so special, this is a place I really love. I will come back until I cannot play anymore.”
This year’s Alfred Dunhill Championship was the first-ever European Tour event to allow players to wear shorts due to the extreme heat in South Africa’s Mpumalanga province, yet Larrazabal has been one of the few who has chosen to stay in long trousers.
(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Toby Davis)