KLM Open

Spaniard delivers all-world 18th-hole celebration after clinching fourth DP World Tour win in 14 months

May 28, 2023

Pablo Larrazabal celebrates on the 18th green after clinching a two-shot victory at the KLM Open.

Dean Mouhtaropoulos

There has always been something about the KLM Open and the Spaniards on the DP World Tour. The first of Seve Ballesteros’ record 50 victories on what was then the European Tour came in the 1976 version of what was then the Dutch Open. The last of Sergio Garcia’s 19 wins on the Old World Circuit came along 43 years later. And now Pablo Larrazabal has nine victories on his home tour, four in the last 14 months. With a closing 69 over the Bernardus Golf Course 50 miles outside Amsterdam, the 40-year-old from Barcelona reached 13 under par for the week, good enough to record a two-shot victory over yet another Spaniard, Adrian Otaegui.

After a slow start to his day on the Kyle Phillips design, Larrazabal overcame two visits to hazards on the par-4 second and the resulting double-bogey 6 to play the next 16 holes in five under par. The last hour was the key though. Midway through the back nine the eventual champion was one of five men tied for the lead on 10 under, with two others only a shot back. But only Larrazabal, who made three birdies in the last four holes, finished fast.

Of those challengers, only Otaegui will be even remotely happy with his play down the stretch. Poland’s Adrian Meronk, already holder of the Irish, Australian and Italian Open titles, could only make pars on the back nine and subsided to a T-5 finish. Likewise, South Africa’s Deon Germishuys, winner of the recent U.S. Open Final Qualifying event at Walton Heath, parred in from the turn and had to be content with a tie for third alongside the promising Denmark’s Rasmus Hojgaard.

“What a day,” said Larrazabal in the immediate aftermath of a victory that will likely lift him to just outside the world’s top 50, to eighth spot on the Race to Dubai and to ninth on the European Ryder Cup points list (three places below Otaegui). “It was a battle for me. I didn’t play well, starting with that double on the second hole. But I managed myself well and holed a few vital putts on the front nine. I did myself to keep myself in position. Then three birdies in the last four. To win golf tournaments you have to do that at the end. It dozens’ matter how fast you run at the beginning, you have to run fast at the end to win the race. Which is what I did.”

Indeed, Larrazabal, one of the best shot-makers on tour, distinguished himself with a brilliantly controlled, low-running, right-to-left approach to the 472-yard par-4 15th that led to a birdie and broke the deadlock atop the leader board.

Then he surpassed even that effort with his tee shot at the 183-yard par-3 17th. With water lurking left and sand right, the man who flirted with LIV Golf, playing in the first ever-event on the Saudi-backed tour before deciding to return to the DP World Tour, hit his ball to within a yard of the cup. All of which made his final birdie on the par-5 18th—courtesy of a 20-foot putt—all but irrelevant as far as the final destination of the trophy was concerned. Still the celebration was captivating.

“I was just trying to make two putts there,” admitted Larrazabal, before conjuring up yet another Spanish connection, the time with the señor who won this title in 1994. “But suddenly I made it. I’m so proud of myself. I struggled big-time through Covid but here we are with four wins in the last 15 months. It means so much to me. Hopefully, I can do 20 percent of what Miguel (Angel Jimenez) did in his 40s.”

In that pursuit at least, he is off to a great start.