Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal claimed his third European Tour victory in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship as Scotland’s Craig Lee let slip a two-shot lead to finish in a tie for tenth.
Thirty-year-old Larrazabal carded a superb final round of 67 – highlighted by a nerveless birdie at the last – to finish on 14-under-par in the UAE, one shot clear of joint runners-up Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson.
"I beat two of the three most talented guys in my era," said Larrazabal. “This is the win of hard work and team work. I worked so hard for the last two years and over the winter."
Whilst Larrazabal was ecstatic to get his hands on the trophy, his emotions could not have been in more stark contrast to those of Stirling professional Lee.
Having played superb golf for the first three days in the gulf, hopes were high that the 36-year-old – a graduate of Team Scottish Hydro’s innovative support mechanism – could go on and grab his first European Tour victory.
"I beat two of the three most talented guys in my era" - Larrazabal
A steady start saw him par the first three holes. However, back-to-back bogeys at the fourth and fifth holes followed and he reached the turn in two-over 38. A double-bogey at the 11th derailed his chances further before another bogey followed at the par-4 14th.
When a makeable birdie putt horse-shoed out at the last to throw him into a nine-way tie for tenth, his misery was compounded.
In the end, it was Stephen Gallacher who finished as top Scot. The Linlithgow man warmed-up for his Dubai Desert Classic title defence in a fortnight’s time by finishing in a tie for eighth on eight-under-par, six shots behind Larrazabal.
That moved the Scot up three places on the world rankings to 64th. If he is able to sustain that for just a few more weeks, he will get into the WGC-Accenture Matchplay Championship in Arizona next month, giving his Ryder Cup hopes a considerable shot in the arm.
Larrazabal: A Ryder Cup contender?
Do you think Pablo Larrazabal’s win in Abu Dhabi has given the Spaniard a good chance of qualifying for this year’s European Ryder Cup team? Leave your thoughts in our ‘Comments’ section below.