Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal battled through blisters and a poor start to win the Alfred Dunhill Championship to start the 2020 European Tour season.
Pablo Larrazabal started the day three shots clear of the Alfred Dunhill Championship field, but as he hobbled around the front nine, his golf seemed to desert him.
He posted a six-over-par front nine, and collapsed to his knees in pain at one point, taking his shoes off before walking down one of the fairways at Leopard Creek Country Club.
However, the Spaniard played through the pain, birdieing three of his final four holes to win the title by a single shot at -8.
With the win, Larrazabal ends a four-year drought for a trophy, having last won on the European Tour at the BMW International Open in the summer of 2015, and the emotion was clear for everyone to see.
The Spaniard took the victory on the last, leaving Sweden’s Joel Sjoholm in solo second place just a shot back. After sitting at level par on Friday evening, the Swede put together rounds of 68 and 69 to finish at -7.
Four-time Alfred Dunhill Championship winner Charl Schwartzel finished in a tie for third alongside Branden Grace and first-round leader Wil Besseling. The trio all finished two shots behind Larrazabal at the end of four rounds in South Africa.
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Daniel van Tonder made it three South Africans in the top six, as he bookended his week with a second round of 68, following up on his Thursday round of the same score. Unfortunately for the home hope, he lost those four shots across Friday and Saturday, before flying back on Sunday to finish at -4.
Justin Harding, MJ Viljoen, and Zander Lombard made it six home favourites inside the top ten of the opening event of the season, as they all finished alongside American Johannes Veerman in a tie for 7th.
Just 13 players finished under par for the week, in what could be the toughest competition of the new European Tour season, with the British trio of Connor Syme, Garrick Porteous, and Calum Hill all getting inside the red numbers.
Former Alfred Dunhill Championship winner Richard Sterne came in at level par, while countryman Christiaan Basson finished at +1 after posing a 67 on Sunday, the best round of the day at Leopard Creek.
Spain’s Adrian Otaegui started the final round at -4, but suffered a drop-off in performance on Sunday, carding an 80 to drop down to +4, and a tie for 33rd, alongside Edoardo Molinari and Thomas Aiken.
Also suffering on the final day was England’s Marcus Armitage, who was featured in his first European Tour event having come through Qualifying School last month. He started the final day at -5, but an 83 saw him drop out of the top 40, finishing the event at +6.
Back at the top though, and it was Pablo Larrazabal that took the spoils in the first event of the European Tour season, thanks to a stunning finish at Leopard Creek.
Africa continues to host the Tour next week, with the AFRASIA BANK Mauritius Open starting on Thursday at the Heritage GC in Heritage Bel Ombre.
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Alfred Dunhill Championship Final Leaderboard:
1 (-8): Pablo Larrazabal (ESP)
2 (-7): Joel Sjoholm (SWE)
T3 (-6): Charl Schwartzel (RSA), Wil Besseling (NED), Branden Grace (RSA)
T14 (E): Richard Sterne (RSA)
T19 (+1): Eddie Pepperell (ENG), Christiaan Basson (RSA)
T24 (+3): George Coetzee (RSA), Clement Sordet (FRA)