Martin defends title after nightmare 17th

Pablo Martin of Spain became the first golfer in two years to retain a European Tour title when he won the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek Country Club by two strokes yesterday.

The 24-year-old was nearly undone by a triple-bogey seven at the 17th hole but he finished in thrilling fashion by going for the island green in two on the par-five 18th and claiming a birdie to finish with a 70 and an 11-under-par total of 277.

The last player to retain a title on the European Tour was Ireland's Padraig Harrington who won the British Open at Carnoustie in 2007 and at Royal Birkdale in 2008.

Dane Thorbjorn Olesen (66) and South African pair Charl Schwartzel (70) and Anthony Michael (73), who had led from day one, were joint second yesterday on 279.

Rookie Michael, 25, began the day a stroke ahead of Martin but the Spaniard seemed to shut the door on the up-and-coming South African when he stormed to the turn in a five-under-par 30 thanks to three birdies and an eagle.

"I played really well on the front nine. I've been playing decently lately and I wanted to try my best," he said as he landed a first prize of €158,500 [£132,700] in the opening event of the 2010-11 season.

Martin was five shots in front when Michael hit his drive on the par-four 11th out of bounds and double-bogeyed the hole. The South African then birdied the 13th before Martin bogeyed the 14th. The defending champion then had a lucky escape on 17 when he drove into a fairway bunker.

Martin's recovery became embedded on the lip of the trap and when he finally made the green he took three putts.

However, Michael made it easier for him at the final hole when he found the water in front of the green.

"The 17th was a nightmare when I had everything under control. I kept remembering the words of my coach at Oklahoma State University, he always used to say you just need to clear the lip," Martin said after recording his third European victory.

"I blew it in the Portugal Masters a few months ago when I had a three-shot lead. Whenever I missed a shot that day I did not have a cool head but I was really blessed to be able to pull it through today."

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