Larrazabal the 'nobody' wins to grab Open spot
Monday 30 June 2008
European golf has a new star – the smiling Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal, who yesterday completed a dream victory at the French Open in Paris. Even with former No 1s Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood chasing him, the 25-year-old who five years ago was caddying for his brother in the event, stormed to a four-shot win. Larrazabal, who came through 36 holes of qualifying to make it to Le Golf National, entered the tournament ranked 481st in the world and even described himself as "the 150th best player here".
But, as the leader from the moment he opened with a 65, he secured victory with an inspired closing 67. As a result the European Tour rookie will play his first major at next month's Open, has secured a place on the circuit for the next two years and is even in the top 20 of the Ryder Cup race. Until his win he was not even in the top 100.
Larrazabal, rated a 200-1 shot before the start, finished on 15-under-par with Montgomerie, in easily his best display of the year, runner-up and Westwood, third in the US Open two weeks ago, dropping to joint fifth after going in the lake on the last. The young Barcelona golfer joined Westwood's ball when he was thrown in by some of his compatriots then threw his shoes in as the celebrations continued. "I don't know how it feels – it's fantastic," he said. "I really played great golf and my putter was great all week."
Elsewhere, Sweden's Daniel Chopra recovered from a first-hole bogey to snatch five birdies and a two-shot lead after the Buick Open third round in Grand Blanc, Michigan.
Chopra, winner of the Mercedes-Benz Championship in January, began the day two adrift of overnight leader Bo Van Pelt of the US and slipped further behind with his early bogey. The 34-year-old Swede, however, played error-free golf the rest of the way as he registered a four-under 68 for a 16-under total of 200. Two shots back were Americans Bubba Watson (68), Woody Austin (69) and Dudley Hart (70).
Catriona Matthew birdied the final hole for a 73 but it was not enough for the Briton to mount a real challenge at the US Women's Open in Minnesota on Saturday. While Stacy Lewis fired a 67 and led by one from fellow American Paula Creamer (69) on nine-under, Matthew stood on one-over-par and was tied for 24th. The Scot suffered on day two when a lightning storm forced a long interruption and she finished a 77 in near darkness.
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