Pablo Larrazabal was crowned European golf’s newest star at the Open de France ALSTOM after a stunning performance at Le Golf National saw the swashbuckling Spaniard hold off the challenge of a host of European Tour champions including former Order of Merit winners Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood.
The 25-year-old, who five years ago was caddieing for his brother in Open de France ALSTOM stormed to a four shot win after a fantastic final round of four under par 67 saw him finish on 15 under par 269, four shots clear of Montgomerie, to take the first prize of €666,660.
Larrazabal, who came through 36 holes of qualifying to make it to Le Golf National, entered the tournament ranked 481st in the Official World Golf Ranking and even described himself as "the 150th best player here".
But, from the moment he opened with a brilliant 65, Larrazabal looked every inch a champion. As the tournament – especially the final round – questions were being asked as to whether or not he had a single nerve in his body as he outplayed world class players like Cabrera, Montgomerie and Westwood to record a deserved victory .
As a result the European Tour rookie will play his first Major at next month's Open Championship, has secured a place on The European Tour until the end of 2010and is now 17th on The Ryder Cup European Points List.
“I promise you I don’t know what I did!” smiled Larrazabal, just moments after being fished out of Le Golf National’s 18th green lake, where he was dumped by his brother Alejandro and his European Tour colleagues Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño, Igancio Garrido and José Manuel Lara.
“I know that today I played great golf. Today and yesterday was probably the best golf of my life. I played great golf at the qualifying tournament as well. This tournament was a six round tournament for me because it all started for me in Chantilly two weeks ago. I
“Montgomerie is probably one of the greatest players in the history of The European Tour. He won eight Order of Merits no time ago. Lee Westwood finished third at the US Open that I was watching on TV two weeks ago. I feel great. Right now I know that I can play like those guys so this is amazing.”
Larrazabal, who played all week without a driver in his bag on the firm and bouncy Golf National, started the final round three ahead and remained firmly in the driving seat with three birdies in his first five.
A double-bogey seven on the ninth cut his advantage from five to two, but he promptly birdied the next two holes and after taking a bogey six down the long 14th ignored the dangers of the water to birdie the 16th and 17th in a performance that was bursting with a wonderful mix of bravado, enjoyment and ability.
Garrido, who lent the new champion a pair of shoes after he emerged from the lake, commented: "I didn't know he was that good - I don't think anybody knew he was that good. It's unbelievable, amazing."
Montgomerie, who rekindled his bid to secure his Ryder Cup place with a €444,440 cheque, took second from Dane Søren Hansen with a 40-foot closing birdie putt.
"That's a big step in the right direction," said the Scotsman. "Pablo has a great future ahead of him. Good luck to him. The flags were no gimmes on the last four and he played them in two under. It's difficult to win out here and he has done it very well."