Larrazabal edges Garcia to win BMW Open, both qualify for British Open

pablo larrazabal, sergio garcia
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Spaniards Pablo Larrazabal (left) and Sergio Garcia played a light-hearted but spirited five extra holes on Sunday before Larrazabal prevailed.
By
PA Sport and Associated Press

Series: European Tour

Published: Sunday, June 26, 2011 | 3:47 p.m.

Pablo Larrazabal birdied the fifth playoff hole to beat fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia and win the BMW International Open on Sunday.

Larrazabal made his short putt on the par-5 18th after Garcia missed from about 5 feet, giving him his first European tour title since winning the 2008 Alstom French Open.

“I had nothing to lose,” Larrazabal said. “If you tell me who you want to beat in a playoff, then I would say first Tiger Woods and then Sergio. I have a lot of respect for Sergio, he is one of my heroes. He is still for me one of the best players in the world.”

The outcome also allowed both players to qualify for the British Open at Royal St. George’s next month. Their prize money put them atop a mini-money list from six European Tour events starting with the BMW PGA Championship last month and ending in Munich.

“I think my game is the type of game for the Open,” Larrazabal said. “When we played the first hole of the playoff, we congratulated each other.”

Garcia birdied the 18th during his final round to shoot 4-under 68, matching Larrazabal at 16 under and forcing the playoff. They matched each other’s score at No. 18 twice, then did the same at No. 12 and No. 17, before playing the last hole for the fourth time on Sunday.

"Making the Open was definitely one of the goals. I wanted to win if I could, but unfortunately Pablo was just a little bit better today,” said Garcia. "I think the playoff was awesome -- we hit good shot after good shot. I so wanted to make that putt and I don't know how it didn't go in.

"Overall I am pretty satisfied. Sure we can learn some good things from this and move forward,” he added. "Unfortunately I got on a bad roll after the 11th, but the up and down on 17 and the birdie at 18 meant a lot."

Before the playoff, Larrazabal had birdies at Nos. 1, 6, 7 and 9 before two more at No. 10 and 11 gave him the outright lead. Garcia started with five pars but, having relinquished the lead, made a long eagle putt at No. 9 to give him back a share of the lead.

It remained close until the 18th, when the two players were deadlocked.

“Pablo and I played some great golf in the playoff. It is a pity one of us had to lose,” Garcia said. “But seventh at the U.S. Open and second now, this shows my game is coming around.”

Defending PGA Champion Martin Kaymer shot a 69 for a share of 18th place with Dustin Johnson (67) and former European Ryder Cup Captain Colin Montgomerie (69). They were seven strokes back.

Kaymer will drop out of the top three when the world golf rankings are published Monday, allowing U.S. Open winner Rory McIlory of Northern Ireland to rise to third behind the English duo of Luke Donald and Lee Westwood. It will be the first time that players from Britain and Ireland have held the top three spots.

Larrazabal’s victory came only 20 days after he lost on the sixth hole of sudden death in a British Open qualifier in England.

Earlier, Garcia had been two ahead after a magical run of three successive birdies from the sixth and eagle putts of 25 and 40 feet at the ninth and 11th. Then came four bogeys in five holes, but finding the green in two at the 568-yard last and two-putting enabled him to catch Larrazabal.

They first played the 18th twice more -- and birdied it both times -- and then the 12th and 17th, two par 3s, could not separate them.

Tied for third two strokes behind were Scotland's Scott Jamieson after a best-of-the-day 64, England's overnight leader Mark Foster, South Africans Retief Goosen and George Coetzee and Dutchman Joost Luiten.

Garcia has not missed a major since the 1999 British Open at Carnoustie -- the one in which he shot 89-83 to finish in last place and cried in his mother's arms. His run looked set to end only a few weeks ago, but he survived a seven-man playoff for four places in the U.S. Open and then showed that he is a force to be reckoned with again.

The 31-year-old even took time out from golf last year to try to rediscover his passion -- and being invited to join Colin Montgomerie's vice-captains at the Ryder Cup helped him to do it.

His second place takes him just outside the world's top 50, while Larrazabal will be back in the top 100 after starting the week 180th.

England's Simon Dyson and Swede Johan Edfors were in position to take the Open places before this event, but Dyson missed the cut and Edfors did not play.

Jamieson achieved his round playing with Kaymer and, after chipping in for eagle at the 11th and closing with three birdies, he said: "I didn't imagine that at the start of the day -- yesterday I didn't play well at all."