Spaniard Martin lands Dunhill title, 77 for Els

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By Richard Asher

LEOPARD CREEK, South Africa (Reuters) - Spain's Pablo Martin took the second European Tour victory of his career when he defeated South African Charl Schwartzel by one stroke to win the Alfred Dunhill Championship on Sunday.

The 23-year-old produced a steady three-under-par round of 69 to equal the tournament scoring record at 17-under-par.

Martin's safe strategy and solid putting were enough to secure the win on a day when some of his challengers fell apart.

Ernie Els slumped to a five-over-par 77 after starting the final round two strokes behind Martin at 12-under-par. This means the big South African has failed to win in a calendar year for the first time since 1990.

Martin's winning round featured birdies at the second, fifth, 12th and 13th holes. His only bogey came at the par-three seventh where he hit his tee shot into the water.

He was forced to make par for victory at the difficult water-surrounded par-five 18th when Schwartzel halved his two-stroke deficit by making a birdie.

Though tempted to go for the green in two, Martin laid up in the knowledge that two putts would do the job.

His first left him a two-footer and although it was not the most confident of strikes, he put the ball in the hole to take his first win since he claimed the 2007 Estoril Open de Portugal as an amateur.

"I've never had such a difficult 80-yard shot in my life," said Martin of his third shot to the 18th which checked up just in time to avoid running into the water.

"I knew Charl was going to make birdie so that pitch shot was the most nervous I've ever been and it was pretty tight."

Several players struggled at the 18th including Welshman Sion Bebb who had looked to be in the hunt at 13 under only to put three balls in the water for an 11 and a closing 75.

The tournament was the opening event in the 2010 European Tour.

(Editing by Dave Thompson)