Triple-bogey sinks Phil Mickelson
Caddie Calls In Violation The Right Way
With a birdie at the home hole, Spain's Pablo Larrazabal edged a pair of the world's top-10 players by 1 shot to win the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship on Sunday.
The 103-ranked Larrazabal claimed his third career European Tour win with a final-round 67 to finish at 14-under par.
"It means a lot to win my third victory on Tour and playing against who I played today,'' Larrazabal said. "Of course, I play against myself but I knew who I also had behind me in Mickelson. I have just beaten two of the three most-talented guys in my era, and in the last era, as well in Phil Mickelson and Rory."
Mickelson's day unraveled with a triple-bogey 7 at the 13th hole. When his tee shot found some bushes, the left-hander didn't have a stance, so he decided to make a swing with an iron from the right side of the ball.
He turned over the head of the club to play the shot, but after his ball made contact, it ricocheted off the hosel. The double hit counted as two strokes and after playing a recovery shot, an approach shot and two swipes with his putter, the final tally of seven strokes dropped Mickelson 3 shots off the lead.
"I was just trying to dribble it out around the bush," Mickelson told EuropeanTour.com. "When it hit the club, not only did it cost me a penalty stroke, but it also stopped the ball from going to a spot where I could hit it again."
Mickelson rebounded with three birdies in his final five holes, but missed out on a possible playoff by a shot. He was still pleased about the start to his 2014 season, though.
"I started off very poorly the first day [a no-birdie, 1-over 73] and I progressed all the way through to where I struck the ball very well today," said Mickelson, who will tee it up this coming week at the Farmers Insurance Open on the PGA Tour.
Both Larrazabal and McIlroy had just one bogey in the final round, coming at the fifth hole for each of them.
"I feel good about my game," McIlroy told EuropeanTour.com. "I feel like I'm back to the place that I want to be. I'm driving the ball well, hitting the ball solid, giving myself plenty of chances for birdie and if I can keep doing that, the wins will come."
In his career, McIlroy now has five top-5s in Abu Dhabi, including runner-up finishes in 2011, 2012 and now 2014. He also owns a third-place finish in 2010 and a T-5 in 2009.
Larrazabal said standing next to Mickelson and McIlroy to accept his trophy was a surreal experience.
Abu Dhabi HSBC Leaderboard
1. Larrazabal (-14)
T-2. McIlroy (-13)
T-2. Mickelson (-13)
T-4. Coetzee (-12)
T-4. Cabrera-Bello (-12)
• Complete scores
"I was sitting at the presentation ceremony I said to myself: 'Pablo? What are you doing here?' I've got Rory McIlroy on my left and I am shaking the hand of Phil Mickelson on my right. It's very special for me,'' added Larrazabal after collecting the trophy.
"But it's been a long journey and a lot of work since my last win in Munich, and only my team and my family know how hard I have worked for this victory with no holidays, and not too many days off this winter, just working hard to arrive here properly and in form to Abu Dhabi. So, yes happy days.''
Larrazabal moved into seventh place in the Race to Dubai and to 12th on the European Ryder Cup Team points table.
As well, the current World No. 103 ranked player should move inside the top-64 on the rankings when they are adjusted Monday and that will guarantee the Spaniard a first-ever place in next month's Accenture Match-Play Championship in Arizona.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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