x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

The Race to Dubai is on as Martin holds off Schwartzel

Pablo Martin created more European Tour history by winning the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa.

Pablo Martin celebrates with the trophy after winning the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek Country Club yesterday.
Pablo Martin celebrates with the trophy after winning the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek Country Club yesterday.

Pablo Martin created more European Tour history by winning the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa. Two years after becoming the first amateur to win on the circuit, the 23-year-old Spaniard is now the only player to win on the European Tour both as an amateur and a professional. Martin, ranked 488th in the world at the start of the tournament, now ends 2009 on a high after beating home hope and former winner Charl Schwartzel by a single stroke in a tense finish.

With a closing three-under-par 69, the Malaga golfer held off the charging Schwartzel to win with a 17-under total. "It's an unbelievable feeling," he said. "I am so happy and there was so much emotion today." Martin was able to celebrate his victory with his sister. She had accompanied him on a trip that was part holiday to see the wildlife on the Kruger National Park adjoining Leopard Creek. While he had the ecstasy, there was agony for several others after the 541-yard 18th - one of the toughest finishing holes in golf - claimed yet more victims.

Welshman Sion Bebb, only one behind after an eagle on the 13th, crashed to a sextuple bogey 11 after tangling with trees and then dumping two balls in the water surrounding the green. That dropped him from fifth to 17th and alongside Ernie Els, who after starting the day tied for second shot a miserable 77. The former Open champion's round ended in a double-bogey seven on the hole where he took eight when two in front two years ago, while Ireland's Gareth Maybin also took seven when lying third and Frenchman Michael Lorenzo-Vera had an eight to fall from fourth to eighth.

Martin was two ahead of Schwartzel on the tee and, despite a huge drive, chose to lay up short of the lake. Schwartzel, who had a hat-trick of birdies from the 14th before bogeying the 17th, had to do the same after almost hooking out of bounds, but then piled the pressure on by pitching close. Martin's third short was close to going over the green, but hung on and he two-putted for victory. It completed a remarkable recovery from a nightmare collapse in which he missed 20 out of 22 cuts. He finished last season 118th on the money list and only the leading 120 kept their cards.

Els is not playing this week's South African Open and so his run of at least one victory every year since 1990 has come to an endr. There have been two more amateur winners since Martin's breakthrough, but both came this year and neither New Zealander Danny Lee nor Irishman Shane Lowry have followed it up with a win in the paid ranks yet. Elsewhere, Australia's Robert Allenby continued his hot streak by winning his fourth Australian PGA championship by four shots yesterday.

Allenby, who took a one-stroke lead into the final round, shot a five-under 66 to post a 14-under total of 270 at the Hyatt Regency course in Queensland. * With agencies