Spaniard Pablo Martin successfully retained his Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek, South Africa but only after surviving a late wobble that almost saw him throw it away.
Trailing by one shot overnight to South African Anthony Michael, Martin stormed into sizeable lead by the turn as Michael and others struggled to get competitive. Martin’s approach shot to the first hole almost pitched into the hole to leave the Spaniard a tap-in birdie and he quickly followed up with a 10-foot eagle putt on the second hole.
Further birdies at the seventh and ninth holes opened up the sizeable advantage and Martin looked home and dry, especially after Michael snap-hooked his drive on the 11th hole en-route to a double-bogey, to leave Martin five ahead with just seven holes left.
Signs of nerves however began to creep into the Spaniard’s game, and after a fortunate par at the 13th hole, carded a bogey at the next after finding the trees off the tee. Pars at the 15th and 16th holes seemingly steadied the ship, but then came a disastrous triple-bogey at the penultimate hole. After finding the bunker from the tee, he then found his ball plugged in long grass, and despite a free drop needed four shots to find the green before three-putting for a seven to go down the 18th and final hole with just a one shot advantage.
But the Spaniard dug deep and after a fairway-splitting drive, knocked a 5-wood into the heart of the water-surrounded green and made birdie. Michael’s challenge effectively ended before Martin’s ball disappeared in the hole, after he found the water with his approach.
Martin pocketed €158,500 for the win and for the second year running becomes the first leader of this season’s Race to Dubai. He also became the first player to successfully defend a European Tour title since Padraig Harrington successfully defended the Open Championship in 2008 at Royal Birkdale.
Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen, playing in his first full European Tour event after graduating from the Challenge Tour shot a best-of-the-day 66 also shared second place with Michael and Charl Schwartzel ; the trio each pocketing €77,767.
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