Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Phil's penalty gifts desert win to Spaniard

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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates -- Spain's Pablo Larrazabal shot a final round 67 to end a near three-year winless drought to capture the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship on Sunday.

Larrazabal, 30, won by a stroke with a 14-under par 274 on the National Course in the UAE capital.

Rory McIlroy (68), who had incurred a two-stroke penalty a day earlier, finished with a share of second place with Phil Micklelson (69) on 13-under.

"It means a lot to win my third victory on Tour and playing against who I played today," said Larrazabal.

"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 was left counting the cost of incurring a shot penalty after a double hit while playing from brush on the 13th hole of the National course.

The British Open champion, who was leading at the time, finished the hole with a triple-bogey seven.

"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."

While Mickelson was returning home for his first PGA event of the New Year, at this coming week's Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, McIlroy is returning to nearby Dubai.

It is the second occasion in three years he has let slip victory in Abu Dhabi because of a rules violation.

"It happens, it happens but it never crossed my mind I might double hit it," Mickelson said.

"I was just trying to dribble it out of the bush because I couldn't get the unplayable penalty lie to give me a shot without stroke and distance and I felt it was worth the risk. It not only cost a penalty shot, but it also stopped the ball from going to a spot where I could hit again.

"So after that I got refocused and got aggressive and made some birdies and gave myself a chance. If Pablo had not birdied the last hole to win, I would have gotten into a playoff."

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 20, 2014 C6

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