Rory and Phil fluff it as Pablo seals 2014 Abu Dhabi title

Pablo Larrazbal 595

RORY MCILROY AND PHIL MICKELSON were left ruing lost opportunities as Spain’s Pablo Larrazábal surged home to win his third European Tour title in Abu Dhabi on the weekend.

The 30 year old Spaniard held his nerve on the final green to sink a five foot birdie putt and beat the star duo by a single stroke at the 2014 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.

In a very close final round there were five golfers still with at least an outside chance of taking the championship with the final two groups on the final hole, a very gettable par 5.

McIlroy and Mickelson knew they likely needed eagles to at least force a playoff but neither managed the feat.

Larrazabal had his own eagle opportunity but left his putt way too short, requiring the nerve-wracking five foot birdie.

“I beat two of the three most talented guys in my era,” said a delighted Larrazábal.

He finished with a 5-under 67 on 14-under with Mickelson (69) and McIlroy (68) on 13-under.

The runners-up each had their tournament changing moments, with the Northern Irishman penalised two strokes after the third round for an incorrect drop, whilst Mickelson had taken the lead halfway  through his final round before a triple bogey on the 13th temporarily knocked the wind from his sails.

Mickelson had a very “Mickelson” like tournament, starting his first outing of the year very slowly and only making the weekend cut by a single stroke. He then came out in the third round and hit a stunning 9-under 63, just a stroke off the course record.

He had fought back to take the lead by the 13th on the final day a wayward tee shot put him under a small tree in one of the many “desert” rough areas.

The left-hander tried a crouching, right-handed, reversed wedge shot – the type of shot he usually revels in – only to have the ball rebound off the clubface and hit the shaft for a double shot. And the ball was still “unplayable” under the tree. He took a drop and could only salvage a triple bogey on the par 4.

The mercurial American hit back with a birdie on the 14th and then another by the 18th where he had a 50 foot chance to make eagle and equal the Spaniard, now waiting nervously in the scorers’ hut.

“It feels great,” said Larrazábal after Mickelson had missed  his fairy tale attempt . “Only me and my team know how much we’ve worked during the last three years.”

Reigning British Open champion Mickelson was overall happy with his opening event in a year in which his main focus is in obtaining golf’s grand slam at the US Open at Pinehurst in June. One thing he won’t want is another runners-up performance – he already has an unprecedented six of those.

McIlroy was shaking his head not only at his delayed two stroke penalty but also at a string of missed birdie chances.

“It’s frustrating – I’ve played well the whole week,” said the World Number Seven. “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.”

Wade Ormsby was the best placed Aussie, finishing with a 2-under 70 to be tied 28th on 5-under.

The European Tour continues its three week Desert Swing this week with the second event, the Qatar Masters at the Doha Golf Club.

Abu Dhabi Golf Championship Leaderboard

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