Bubba Watson reigned supreme at the WGC HSBC Champions, seeing off Tim Clark in a play-off on a dramatic Sunday in Shanghai, China.
The American carded a two-under 70 to reach 11 under, with Clark notching 69 to join him, but in truth, it could have been anyone’s tournament.
Here’s a look at the final, congested leaderboard after a thrilling week of action at the Sheshan International Golf Club:
|WGC-HSBC Champions Final Leaderboard|
|Position||Golfer||To Par||Sunday's Round|
With Watson, Clark, Graeme McDowell, Rickie Fowler and Hiroshi Iwata all hovering around the 10-under mark as the final holes played out, it was a case of who could show a touch of class to distance themselves from the field.
While others faltered, Watson excelled as he chipped in for an astonishing eagle at the 18th to put him into the lead, and he certainly looked happy about it—per Sky Sports Golf:
Before that, though, it was a topsy-turvy day for the 36-year-old, who just couldn’t get going in difficult conditions.
Five birdies and two bogies on the front nine helped him to go out in three under par, but another pair of bogies and a double on the 17th left the American at nine under par on the 18th tee.
However, the eagle was astonishing, and he went on to follow that with a birdie on the play-off hole (18th), while Clark could only muster a par.
Following the round, a very happy Watson spoke to European Tour after his round and reflected on an emphatic victory—revealed via Twitter:
Clark also needed final-hole brilliance to see him into the play-off, as he carded a birdie to reach the 11-under total, but he couldn’t quite repeat the feat on the extra hole.
The South African chalked up five birdies and three bogies before that and could have won the tournament if his putter had been a little hotter.
That much was reflected on the play-off hole, as he left his birdie putt agonisingly short to allow Watson to come in and take the victory.
Elsewhere, McDowell squandered his overnight lead after carding a one-over 73, with two bogies and one birdie costing him dearly on the final day.
Fowler’s round of 70 put him in with a chance, but the day belonged to his compatriot and good friend Watson, who now has his fourth European Tour victory.
Next week sees the Tour head to Turkey for the Turkish Open, where another heart-stopping, dramatic tournament may well be in prospect for the talented field.
Day 3 Recap
Things are going to be very interesting on the final day of the WGC-HSBC Champions event in China. Graeme McDowell couldn't put any distance between himself and the field after shooting a one-under par 71. He remains in the top spot, but there's a cluster in the rear-view mirror putting pressure on him.
Here's a look at the leaderboard following Round 3:
|WGC-HSBC Champions Tournament Leaderboard|
|Rank||Name||To Par||Day 3 Score|
Martin Kaymer had the round of the day, shooting a six-under 66 that put him in a tie for third place at nine-under par. This could be a prelude to history repeating itself, as noted by Ewan Murray of The Guardian:
Tied with Kaymer is Bubba Watson, who took a 69 on moving day to remain in contention. However, his day wasn't without drama as you can see on this approach shot, via The PGA Tour's official Twitter:
There were a lot of low scores to be found in the third round. Of the players tied for 10th place or better, 10 shot under 70 and only two players in the top 24 shot over par.
Despite all the stiff competition behind him, McDowell told The Associated Press after the third round that he feels good about his position, via WorldGolfChampionships.com:
"Let's be honest," McDowell said. "Yes, I had a three-shot lead overnight and it's only one now. But I'll take this position any week that you offer it to me—a one-shot lead going into the last round on a golf course that I enjoy. Looking forward to the opportunity tomorrow."
McDowell has been atop the leaderboard since Day 1, firing back-to-back 67s, before today's slight misstep. He's looking for his first victory since the European Tour's Alstom Open de France last July. It's just going to be more difficult than he might have thought.
Day 2 Recap
Graeme McDowell extended his advantage at the top of the leaderboard to three shots on Friday at the WGC-HSBC Champions tournament, as the Northern Irishman put in a bogey-free round of 67 to move to 10-under par.
There are plenty of big names in the chasing pack with the likes of Bubba Watson, Ian Poulter and Rickie Fowler all making significant moves in their second rounds.
Low scoring was the theme of the day on Friday with Japan's Hiroshi Iwata going the lowest of anyone in the tournament so far with a seven-under 65 to move into third place.
Here is the leaderboard after Day 2's action:
|WGC-HSBC Champions Tournament Leaderboard|
|Rank||Name||To Par||Day 2 Score|
McDowell put together another tremendous round as he matched his score from Day 1 to take control in Shanghai heading into the weekend.
Two birdies in his opening three holes got the momentum going for the 2010 US Open champion and he then played serenely, picking up three more shots at eight, 14 and 15.
Watson finished up his round in stunning fashion to shoot up the leaderboard on Friday. Having played the front nine in level par he birdied his last five holes to card a five-under 67, per the PGA Tour:
Fowler had a less spectacular, but valuable, finish as he got his first birdie on the card at the par-five 14th after 13 pars. He then claimed another shot two holes later.
Poulter moved himself into second place for the weekend with his own brilliant finish, the Englishman carding a bogey-less five-under round of 67.
He started well with a four at the par-five second but it was the last five holes where he really made his move as he picked up four birdies to move into second on his own, per the European Tour:
Iwata put in the round of the day with a stunning 65, a final-hole scramble for par the only troubled moment for the Japanese player who now finds himself in amongst some of the biggest names in golf around the top of the leaderboard.
It was not the best of days for world No. 2 Adam Scott despite five birdies and an eagle in his second round.
The Australian shot a nine at the par-five eighth and a six at the following hole to eventually card a level-par 72, although he stays in contention at two under.
Jordan Speith had a similarly topsy-turvy day with a couple of his own horror-holes on six and 13 contributing to a round of 74 which sees him level par for the tournament, per the PGA Tour:
McDowell is most certainly the man to beat this weekend, the Northern Irishman having been consistency personified so far on Thursday and Friday in China.
If he carries on in this fashion, he will be tough to catch over the weekend, although Poulter looks in fine form with Watson also ready to pounce.
Day 1 Recap
Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell hit seven birdies on Thursday to take an early two-shot lead in the HSBC Champions tournament, carding a five-under-par round of 67 on the opening day.
However, the situation could have been even better for the Ulsterman who was positioned at seven-under after 12 holes, only to drop two shots in the final stretch.
A chasing pack of six golfers, including Martin Kaymer, Fowler and Brandt Snedeker, lurk at three-under and now lie in an excellent position to build on a solid start.
Adam Scott and Stenson, meanwhile, are among those golfers a further shot adrift.
After Day 1 of the tournament, the leaderboard is as follows:
|WGC-HSBC Champions Tournament Leaderboard|
A full tournament leaderboard can be found on the European Tour website.
Pre-tournament, low scoring was predicted to be difficult due to the firmness of the greens in Shanghai, and it proved to be the case, although McDowell bucked the trend with his flying start after teeing off at the 10th.
The 35-year-old will doubtless regret that he was unable to maintain such form, but he pointed to wind conditions as a reason for his late troubles.
Per Sportal, McDowell commented post-round:
I got off to a flier today but it was tough you know, the wind changed around from what [it had been like when] we played the course in practice.
I only missed one fairway all day, which is key on this course, especially with the rough up like it is this year.
The greens are very fast so you have to get on the right side of the flag and I managed to do that. You'll take five under every day of the week.
With 40 of the top 50 golfers in the world in town, McDowell faces a battle to maintain his advantage over the days ahead. Indeed, at three-under at the turn, Ryder Cup rival Fowler will also be disappointed not to have kicked on further along the back nine.
Kaymer, too, has a pedigree on the Sheshan course, having created WGC history in 2011 when he overturned a five-shot lead on the final day. The German finished strongly with a birdie at the penultimate hole, leaving himself in contention after Day 1.
Play will resume on Friday morning with Kaymer and Stenson among the early starters at shortly after 9 a.m. local time (1 a.m. GMT). McDowell will set off for his second round at 10:25 a.m. (2:25 a.m. GMT).