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Larrazabal Edges McIlroy & Mickelson in Abu Dhabi
Pablo Larrazabal birdied the final hole to win the Abu Dhabi Championship by a stroke over Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson. The $2.7 million European Tour event began Thursday at Abu Dhabi Golf Club in the United Arab Emirates.
The Spaniard carded six birdies and a bogey en route to a 5-under 67 and a four-round total of 14-under 274, one shot ahead of a pair of major winners, McIlroy and Mickelson.
It wasn't meant to be this week for McIlroy and Mickelson. After completing what he thought was a 4-under 68 in Saturday's third round, McIlroy was assessed a two-stroke penalty for what was deemed an improper drop from a spectator crossing on the second hole, thus resulting in a 70.
The 24-year-old Northern Irishman later said of the decision, "There are a lot of stupid rules in golf and this is one of them." That two-stroke penalty ultimately cost McIlroy a victory.
Mickelson's chances for victory came undone Sunday. Holding a one-shot lead before teeing off on the par-4 13th hole, the reigning British Open champion hit a bad drive under a bush. Instead of taking a drop and a one-stroke penalty, Lefty decided to play the shot right-handed. But his ball hit a branch and rebounded back onto his club for a double-hit, leading to a triple-bogey and a sudden three-shot deficit to Larrazabal.
"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."
Though Mickelson birdied three of the five final holes, it wasn't enough to catch the 30-year-old from Barcelona, who birdied the 18th hole for his third European Tour victory and first since June 2011.
"It feels great," the 103-ranked Larrazabal told EuropeanTour.com. "Only me and my team know how much we've worked during the last three years."
"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," added Mickelson, who will play in next week's Farmers Insurance Open on the PGA Tour.
McIlroy also feels upbeat about the direction he's going. "I feel good about my game," he 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."
"It's frustrating - I've played well the whole week," added McIlroy about coming away without a win. "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."
George Coetzee (66) and first-round leader Rafa Cabrera-Bellow (68) shared fourth at 276. Third-round leader, Scotland's Craig Lee, dropped into 10th after closing with a 77.
For all the scores, visit http://www.europeantour.com/europeantour/season=2014/tournamentid=2014003/leaderboard/index.html.