By Michael Vlismas (Sunshine Tour)
When he first walked a fairway in South Africa in December 2007, Pablo Larrazabal says he immediately knew “there is something special in this country”. On Sunday, the Spanish golfer who South Africans love as one of their own produced something equally special in a three-man play-off to win the MyGolfLife Open hosted by Pecanwood.
Larrazabal closed with a 67 to finish regulation play tied for the lead on 22 under par with England’s Jordan Smith and fellow Spaniard Adri Arnaus. Playing the 18th again in the play-off, Arnaus fell out as the other two made birdies. And then playing the 18th again, Larrazabal holed a five-footer for birdie and the win as Smith bogeyed the hole.
It was his sixth DP World Tour victory. But more significantly, he has now won two of those six titles in South Africa, including the 2019 Alfred Dunhill Championship.
“I knew from the moment I first came here that there is something very special about this country, and it’s the people,” said an emotional Larrazabal.
“What a day. I felt great this morning. It was one of those days where you just feel great and you know you’re going to have a chance. I started fast to get into the lead very quick.”
Larrazabal was one-stroke clear before a bogey at the 17th brought him into that three-way tie for the lead.
“I had that bogey on 17 which I wasn’t expecting. But then in the play-off, when Adri hit it so close on the first playoff hole, I knew we had to attack.”
And it was a play-off that brought tremendous cheers from the Pecanwood faithful for one of the most popular European golfers to visit these fairways.
“This wins means a lot. I’ve been working so hard and I’m very happy to get it done. I love this place. I love good golf courses and nature, and South Africa has it all. The crowds here have been so special to me all these years. The South African crowd is always so good to me.”
Smith, who signed for a closing 65, and Arnaus, who posted a final round of 67, shared second place.
George Coetzee finished as the leading South African with a strong final-round surge of 64 that earned him fourth place on 21 under par.
The Sunshine Tour and DP World Tour moves to Johannesburg this week for the Steyn City Championship at The Club at Steyn City.