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08 December 2023

Larrazabal holds nerve to win Abu Dhabi Championship

Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman, TCA Abu Dhabi, and Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri, Deputy Chairman and CEO, HSBC Middle East and North Africa with winner Pablo Larrazábal. (HSBC/Getty)

By Reuters

Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal claimed his third European Tour victory after holding off Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy to win the $2.7 million Abu Dhabi Championship by one shot on Sunday.

Larrazabal held his nerve on the final green, a birdie taking him to 14-under after a final round of 67, his path to victory eased by a calamitous 13th hole for world number five Mickelson.

The Open champion took a triple bogey seven after fluffing an escape attempt from a bush and despite getting back into contention with birdies at 14 and 16, he could not get the eagle he needed at the last to force an unlikely playoff.

Mickelson, who had surged into contention with a dazzling 63 on Saturday and started the final round with three birdies in the first 10 holes, closed with a 69 for a total of 275, the same finishing score as Northern Irishman McIlroy who, like the American, birdied the last for a round of 68.

"It feels great," 103-ranked Larrazabal told the European Tour website (www.europeantour.com).

"Only me and my team know how much we've worked during the last three years."

Larrazabal started the day three off the lead, but after two early birdies he fell off the pace with a bogey at the fifth.


A wonderful chip from a bunker set the 30-year-old up for a birdie at the eighth, and he sunk a six-foot putt at the 11th, placing him in a strong position when Mickelson faltered.

He birdied again at the par-four 13th, and held his nerve at the 18th despite a poor first putt creating some tension after he had found the green in two.

"The birdie at 13 gave me the confidence to keep it going and I hit great shots coming in," Larrazabal added.

"The five wood at 18 is maybe the best shot of my golfing career."

World number seven McIlroy was left to rue a two shot penalty in the third round, as well as a string of missed birdie opportunities after strong play off the tee and approaching the green.

"It's frustrating - I've played well the whole week," the two-time major winner said.

"It's a very positive start to the season so I'm not going to let one little negative ruin that.

"I came in here telling everyone that I'm really happy with my game and done some good work and felt like it was coming together for me at the end of last year. I've continued that on, so I'm really excited for the rest of the season."

Overnight leader Craig Lee's hopes of scooping the first European Tour victory of his career were scuppered after the Briton slumped to a 77 and a tie for 10th.