European golf has a brand new star – smiling Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal, who today completed a dream victory at the French Open in Paris.
Even with former number ones Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood chasing him, the 25-year-old who five years ago was caddying for his brother in the event stormed to a four-shot win.
Larrazabal, who came through 36 holes of qualifying to make it to Le Golf National, entered the tournament 481st in the world and even described himself as “the 150th best player here”.
But, leader from the moment he opened with a 65, he clinched the massive £527,800 first prize with a dramatic and inspired closing 67.
As a result the European Tour rookie will play his first major at next month’s Open Championship, has secured a place on the circuit for the next two years and is even in the top 20 of the Ryder Cup race.
Until his win he was not even in the top 100.
Larrazabal, rated a 200-1 shot before the start, finished on 15 under par with Montgomerie, in easily his best display of the year, runner-up and Westwood, third in the US Open two weeks ago, dropping to joint fifth after going in the lake on the last.
The young Barcelona golfer joined Westwood’s ball when he was thrown in by some of his compatriots – then threw his shoes in as the celebrations continued.
“I don’t know how it feels – it’s fantastic,” he said. “I really played great golf and my putter was great all week.”
It was only the 17th Tour event Larrazabal had played in his life, although his past experiences do include The Masters at Augusta – again as a caddie for his brother Alejandro, British amateur champion in 2002.
Until this achievement he was only the fourth best-known golfer in his family as both parents were internationals.
Father Gustavo made him work on a fish farm before turning professional to get an idea of what hard work is and learn the value of money. He should never have to go back to it.
His previous best finish was 15th and he had never previously come within eight strokes of the winner, but now he charges from 128th on the Order of Merit into the leading 10 and up more than 300 places on the world rankings.
Larrazabal, who played all week without a driver in his bag on the firm and bouncy course, started the final day three ahead and remained firmly in the driving seat with three birdies in his first five.