Pablo Larrazabal secured the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship as Phil Mickelson imploded and a rules blunder by Rory McIlroy arguably cost him the title for the second time in three years.
Larrazabal carded a final round of 67 to finish 14 under par, one stroke ahead of major winners McIlroy and Mickelson, who were both left to rue vital mistakes.
For McIlroy it was taking an incorrect drop on the second hole of his third round, an error which cost him a two-shot penalty and left him fuming about golf’s “stupid rules”.
Two years ago, he was penalised two shots in his second round here for brushing away some sand that was not on the green, but which lay between his ball and the flag. He went on to finish one behind Robert Rock.
Mickelson’s wound was also self-inflicted as he led by one when he ran up a triple-bogey seven on the 13th after attempting to hit a right-handed escape shot from under a bush, only to suffer a ‘double-hit’ when his ball struck the bush and bounced back on to his club.He responded with birdies on the 14th and 16th, but was unable to find the eagle he needed on the 18th to force a play-off with Larrazabal.
McIlroy had played alongside Larrazabal and the pair were both three under for the day after 11 holes, but while McIlroy’s challenge stalled with a run of seven straight pars, Larrazabal birdied the 13th and hit two superb shots to the heart of the 18th green to set up the decisive birdie.
Sheffield’s Danny Willett finished joint 19th after carding a final round of 70 to end up six under par.