Monday 23 October 2017

I beat two of the best golfers of all time -- Larrazabal

Karl MacGinty

Newly-crowned champion Pablo Larrazabal admits he sat between Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson at the HSBC Championship prize-giving ceremony and thought 'Pablo, what the f*** are you doing here?'

"I beat two of the three most talented guys in my era, probably any era," explained the Spaniard, who sealed a one-stroke victory with a classy birdie on the par-five 18th at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. "This is very special to me."

Larrazabal (30) purred to his third European Tour title with a closing 67. Yesterday's €328,779 winner's cheque was smaller than those he banked at the French Open in 2008 and the BMW International in 2011, but beating this classy duo was priceless.

McIlroy, who earned €171,338 in second, set aside his frustration over Saturday's rules rumpus and gave full credit to Larrazabal.

"When he needed to, Pablo hit the shots," he said. "The two he hit into 18 were straight out of the top drawer. Fair play to him. He's a good guy, one of my best friends out here."

This win should earn Larrazabal a place in the 64-man field at next month's Accenture Match Play WGC. With a decent showing in Qatar this week or Dubai, he could also force his way into the world's elite top-50.

FORGET

As for September's Ryder Cup, he said: "Let's get ready for next week and forget about that. There are so many great players out there and it's just three picks. Actually there are two, because (Ian) Poulter will get one for sure.

"Paul (McGinley) is not going to pick me," he smiled. "I need to win another three European Tour events, or two if I do good in the Majors, to make the team, if I'm playing the Majors."

European skipper McGinley credited caddie 'Edinburgh Jimmy' (Rae) for the birdie at 18 which sealed a 70 and clinched 19th place on six-under (€21,765).

Jimmy called the club," said the Dubliner. "He's chuffed with himself. I wanted to hit nine-iron. I won't repeat the language he used but he wouldn't let me. He made me take the eight and I hit it to six inches."

Michael Hoey held out for a share of 10th (€31,168) on seven-under after a closing 73. Darren Clarke's new putter ended-up in two pieces in the bin after he too shot 73 for a 52nd-place finish on even-par (€7,496).

Irish Independent

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