Martin defends Euro title at Dunhill Links

Pablo Martin after defending his title at the Alfred Dunhill Championship.

Pablo Martin after defending his title at the Alfred Dunhill Championship.

MALELANE, South Africa – Pablo Martin survived a disastrous triple bogey to successfully defend his Alfred Dunhill Championship title Sunday, shooting a 2-under 70 for a two-shot victory.

The Spaniard had a 7 at the par-4 17th but recovered to birdie the last for an 11-under 277 at Leopard Creek Country Club. He was two clear of Thorbjorn Olesen (66), Charl Schwartzel (70) and Anthony Michael (73), who took a one-stroke lead into the final round of the European Tour event.

“I played really well for nine holes, then I got myself into trouble,” Martin said. “It was a good start and it gave me a little bit of a cushion, and I needed it.”

He had surged ahead with an eagle-birdie start, and opened a five-shot lead through 11 holes following birdies on Nos. 7 and 9. With a three-shot lead on the tee at No. 17, the triple bogey then cut his advantage over playing partner Michael to one stroke with one hole to play.

But Martin recovered to put his second shot on the par-5 No. 18 on the middle of the green, and Michael found the water to end his chances.

Martin finished with a birdie four for successive victories at the European Tour’s season-opening tournament, winning a $210,000 check. He is the first winner on the 2010-11 Race to Dubai and the first player to retain a European Tour title since Padraig Harrington won a second straight British Open in 2008.

“I was able to hit a couple of good shots coming in, especially the one on 18,” Martin said. “On 17, I made a big mess but I was really lucky that everything went well.”

Michael had led since after the first round, but the rookie had two bogeys and a double-bogey Sunday and couldn’t match Martin’s attacking play in his bid for a first professional victory.

He made a 15-foot putt for par on No. 18 to make sure of his share of second, but will have to wait for his first tournament win as a professional after his worst round of the tournament.

Martin made a blistering start when he almost holed his approach to the first and then sank a 10-foot eagle putt at No. 2.

He got lucky on No. 13 when a wayward shot was held up by a bunker that kept it from into a crocodile-infested river.

On No. 17 he found a fairway bunker off the tee and then fired his second deep into the thick grass on the lip of the bunker. He ended up chipping out onto the fairway and then three-putted.

But he regained his composure with a 5-iron to the heart of the green on the last and collected a third career title after his 2009 win here and the 2007 Portugal Open – when he became the first amateur to win a European Tour event.

Olesen, Denmark’s Challenge Tour graduate, had six birdies in his 66 to jump 10 places.

Schwartzel mixed four birdies with two bogeys in his 70, securing the 2010 Order of Merit title on South Africa’s Sunshine Tour, which co-sanctions the Alfred Dunhill, ahead of its season-ending 100th South African Open next week.

South Africa’s Thomas Aiken (70) was alone in fifth on 7-under 281, while England’s Robert Dinwiddie (70) and another South African, Alex Haindl (73), shared sixth at 282.

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