Larrazabal inspired by Iniesta triumph - Golf - Sport - The Independent

Larrazabal inspired by Iniesta triumph

Of all the professionals who skipped into the recorders' hut here yesterday after a low-scoring first round of the European Open, none bore a smile any wider than that of Pablo Larrazabal. There was a very good reason for it: Larrazabal happens to be a rabid Barcelona fan who has been close friends with one Andres Iniesta since the pair played football together on the same school team.

Indeed, so delighted was the 26-year-old with the Champions' League triumph on Wednesday night – and, of course, with his former team-mate's man-of-the-match contribution – that he draped a Barcelona flag over his golf bag and carried his replica shirt to bring some luck. It seemed to do the trick for the Spaniard, who after winning the French Open last June was tipped as the Tour's next sensation. Larrazabal is still waiting for his first top 20 finish of 2009, but began yesterday with an encouraging two-under par 70 to stand five off Anders Hansen's lead.

"Maybe I was a little inspired by our tremendous win," said Larrazabal. "Coming from Barcelona I'm a huge fan and I went to school with Andres Iniesta. We are good friends and I'll ring him with my congratulations. The goalkeeper, Víctor Valdes, was also at our school. In fact, most of the Barcelona players went there, and I played in the same team as them. That made me want to go to the final even more."

Larrazabal even considered pulling out of this £1.8m event, especially when his Nou Camp contacts secured him tickets. "I had six in all and I was thinking of going to Rome with some friends and then flying back," he said. "But all the flights were booked and I haven't been playing well enough to justify a private plane. So I watched the game in my hotel room – by myself. I needed to be alone."

There was also the little matter of a 8.10am tee-off time to preclude any wild celebrations and when he holed his approach from 104 yards for an eagle two on the par-four 13th his restraint appeared to be about to pay rich dividends. But showing the erratic tendency that threatens to blight such a promising career, the 2008 rookie of the year proceeded to drop five shots in his next five holes. Still, four successive birdies from the first onwards kept him in touch with the pacesetters on a congested leaderboard which includes Rory McIlory and Sergio Garcia on three-under, but not Shane Lowry whose professional career began with an ugly 78.

It meant Larrazabal could retire to the clubhouse a happy man and regale his fellow pros with tales about the times he ran out alongside Iniesta. And one particular reminiscence should have Premier League scouts rushing for the next plane. "We were 14 and 15 when we on the same team, but no, Andres was not our star player," he said. "It was another midfielder named Jorge Troiteiro. He had more technique than Iniesta. I think he is playing in the Spanish third division now."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future