A hobbling Pablo Larrazabal fought back from a dismal collapse in round four of the Alfred Dunhill Championship to win his first European Tour event since June 2015.

Larrazabal's most recent victory had come four-and-a-half years ago at the BMW International Open, yet he looked on course for a comfortable triumph this week after leading by three shots following both the second and third rounds.

That was until a blister on Sunday saw a week's work undone in dramatic fashion, with an awful 41 on the front nine sending Larrazabal tumbling back down the leaderboard at five under.

"I woke up this morning and I didn't think I was going to play," he said afterwards in an emotional interview. "I couldn't put my shoe on, I couldn't walk to the buggy, I couldn't go to the putting green.

"I really struggled today. Front nine, I couldn't walk; back nine, I said to myself, going to 10, 'You cannot walk, you cannot swing'. I had a big blister on my right toe."

But Larrazabal found inspiration in the exploits of the great Tiger Woods at the 2008 U.S. Open, where he triumphed with a left knee missing an anterior cruciate ligament and two stress fractures of his left tibia.

Larrazabal continued: "I said to myself, 'If Tiger can win a U.S. Open with a broken leg, what is a blister?'"

The recovery was remarkable, as the Spaniard birdied three of the final four holes, clinching victory at Leopard Creek and avoiding a play-off against Joel Sjoholm with his putt at the last.

"It's been a long road," Larrazabal said. "I've really struggled the past four years. But this is where I want to be."

As well as his own guts, though, Larrazabal's victory owed a little to the failings of his rivals, with first-round leader Wil Besseling and home hopeful Branden Grace carding respective two-over and one-over rounds to finish alongside Charl Schwartzel, another South African, in a tie for third.

Sjoholm was second and unfortunate to miss out after his own stunning turnaround, having been at even par heading into the weekend.

He followed up Saturday's 68 with a competitive 69, but Larrazabal's three-over 75 improbably proved enough to triumph by a single stroke at eight under.

Pablo Larrazabal retained his three-shot leading going into the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Championship.

Seeking his first European Tour win since 2015, the Spaniard carded a two-under round of 70 on Saturday.

That maintained his advantage over first-round leader Wil Besseling, who matched his score, while home hope Branden Grace's 71 meant he slipped to four shots behind Larrazabal.

Zander Lombard and Marcus Armitage sit on five under par in a tie for fourth ahead of Sunday's action, six shots behind the leader.

It was Sweden's Joel Sjoholm who had the best round of the day at Leopard Creek with a 68 and he is one of four players sitting on four under.

Eight birdies in the first 13 holes had Sjoholm flying but he dropped a shot at the 16th and double-bogeyed the last in a blow to his hopes of challenging the leaders.

Leader Larrazabal, whose most recent triumph came at the BMW International Open in June 2015, had five birdies and dropped three shots in a steady effort, though one of his bogeys came on the 17th and denied him the chance to extend his advantage.

He earlier overcame finding the water for one of his other dropped shots at the seventh and goes into round four in a strong position with the field well spread out behind him.

Pablo Larrazabal holds a three-shot lead at the halfway stage of the Alfred Dunhill Championship after carding 69 on day two at Leopard Creek Country Club.

The Spaniard hit a six-under-par 66 in his first round in South Africa, and six birdies on Friday ensured he moved three shots clear of overnight leader Will Besseling and home favourite Branden Grace.

It was not all smooth sailing for Larrazabal, who double-bogeyed the seventh with a tee shot that landed in the water, though four successive birdies on the back nine gave him the edge.

His run on the back nine included a remarkable, 100-foot putt from the edge of the green on the 12th.

"It was a good job, it wasn't an easy day," said Larrazabal, who did not take up the chance to wear shorts in sweltering conditions at Leopard Creek, in quotes reported on the European Tour's official website.

"The wind was swirling around and gusting and this golf course was tough. I made a big mistake on the seventh, I didn't trust what my game plan was, but I was playing good enough to start making birdies again and that's what I did.

"I had a lot of patience out there. I know I'm playing good, I know I'm playing aggressive enough to make birdies and get on a run. If you have patience out there the putts are going to drop, they did drop today and I'm happy with a 69."

South African Grace, who has won four European Tour titles on home soil, and triumphed at Leopard Creek in 2014, hit 70, while Basseling bounced back from three bogeys with two birdies to stay in the mix.

Grace's compatriot Thomas Aiken shares fourth place with English duo Jack Singh Brar and Marcus Armitage. Eddie Pepperell - the highest-ranked player in the competition - is tied for 28th after carding a par 73.

On a course where sightings of leopards, monkeys and even elephants are commonplace, it was Wil Besseling who proved a big-game player in the first round of the Alfred Dunhill Championship.

The Dutchman, one of several players in the field to take advantage of being allowed to wear shorts for the first time on the European Tour, carded a seven-under 65 to sit one shot clear in sweltering heat at Leopard Creek.

A three-man chasing pack consisting of Pablo Larrazabal, Garrick Porteous and Keith Horne provides the closest competition to Besseling, who has never won on the European Tour.

The event marks the start of the new Race to Dubai campaign but world number 47 Eddie Pepperell is the highest ranked player in action in South Africa, the Englishman signing for a modest 71.

Besseling's card showed just one blemish, which came amid a run of three birdies and an eagle across five holes on the back nine. 

"I played nicely," said Besseling in quotes reported by the European Tour website. "It's a great start for the season and a great round. I'm very happy with my 65.

"I had it going nicely on the par fives. I was able to get there in two with irons and converted the birdies and an eagle on 15 really helped."

Horne was not the only man to give the home fans hope of a South African winner, with 2015 champion Branden Grace joining compatriots Daniel van Tonder and Thomas Aiken on four under. 

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