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Golf Today > Tour Schedules > 2008 > European Tour > Open de France > Round 4


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Pablo Larrazabal holds nerve to claim maiden win

Rookie Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal held his nerve on Sunday to claim one of Europe’s top prizes by winning the French Open in only his 17th European Tour start.

Larrazabal, ranked 481 in the world and 128th in Europe before the event, again thwarted several of the continent’s big names as he closed with a four-under par 67 for a 15-under total of 269, four shots clear of eight-times European number one Colin Montgomerie.

Montgomerie, recording his best result since winning the European Open a year ago, holed a 40ft birdie putt on the 18th for a 68 to assure him of sole possession of second place and resurrect his Ryder Cup qualification hopes.

Fellow Ryder Cup hopeful Dane Soren Hansen, second in this event last year, carded a 69 to finish a further stroke back.

Larrazabal, whose brother Alejandro was the 2002 British Amateur champion, had to come through pre-qualifying to earn his spot and showed little fear as he led from start to finish without once using a driver on the tough National course.

“For me it was a six-day tournament and I played maybe the best in my life,” he told reporters after climbing out of the 18th-hole lake after being thrown by fellow Spanish golfers.

“I was against Colin Montgomerie, one of the three best players in European Tour history and Lee Westwood, who I watched on TV finish third in the U.S. Open.

“Now I know I can play like those guys and it’s great.”

Starting three strokes ahead of the field, Larrazabal refused to be intimidated by the illustrious company trailing him that included another former European number one, Lee Westwood, who made a fast start to add to the pressure.

Instead of being fazed, he increased his lead by picking up three birdies in the first five holes before a double-bogey on nice reduced his advantage to just two strokes over Montgomerie.

Mistakes by the experienced men along with birdies on the 10th and 11th allowed Larrazabal to regain complete control.

Despite dropping another shot on the long 14th, he again responded with two successive birdies to win the 666,660 euro first prize—one of largest on tour—and claim an exemption for the July 17-20 British Open through its mini order of merit.

A 440,440 second prize transformed Montgomerie’s season by boosting his hopes of qualifying for Nick Faldo’s Ryder Cup team as he moved to 14th on the combined European table, just four places away from automatic qualification.

“That massive putt on the last makes a big difference in world and Ryder Cup points and it’s a step in the right direction at last,” Montgomerie told reporters. “And what’s very encouraging is that I putted well all weekend.

“Forgive me but I don’t even know the winner’s name,” he said of Larrazabal. “Let’s just call him Pablo. He’s got a great future, he held up against a lot of pressure. Good luck to him.”

Hansen’s third place took him to ninth in the Ryder Cup standings while a second double-bogey of the round on 18 relegated Westwood (71), to a tie for fifth on seven-under with Austria’s Markus Brier.

“I made a great start but after five holes everything I touched turned to rubbish,” Westwood said.

Australian Richard Green finished fourth on eight-under while fellow countryman Scott Strange, who failed to make the cut, hung on to the remaining British Open qualifying spot.


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