HSBC Champions 2013: Daily Leaderboard Analysis, Highlights and More
The WGC-HSBC Champions tournament takes place at the Sheshan International Golf Club this week, with a packed field of stars from around the world looking to claim the tournament's £800,000 first-place prize.
Among those on show will be Northern Ireland's Rory McIlory, who has been in Asia for the past three weeks, Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter and Justin Rose, with European Tour ranking points on the line.
The tournament is set to go a long way toward helping decide the final field for the World Tour Championship, with the Race to Dubai now entering its final few events. McIlroy is among those yet to book his ticket.
Follow all four days of play from Shanghai here on Bleacher Report.
Day 4: Dustin Johnson Wins in Record Fashion
American Dustin Johnson claimed the WGC-HSBC Champions title in Shanghai on Sunday, with a final round 66 holding off the considerable challenge of both Ian Poulter and Graham McDowell, both of whom matched his final round score.
Johnson went through his final 11 holes in a score of seven under par, having seen both of his rivals pull level in the opening stages.
Neither player, though, could live with Johnson on the back nine, with an eagle of the par-four 16 the shot that cemented Johnson in pole position for the title.
Both Sergio Garcia and Richard Sterne hit nine under-par rounds of 63 on the final day, in what were the lowest rounds of a dramatic day of golf.
It was also a good week for both Rory McIlroy (6=) and Luke Donald (31), with both finishing in positions that assure their presence at the end of year Dubai tour finals—moving well inside the top 60 positions.
Per ESPN, the victorious Johnson said of his success:
I didn't get off to the best start and Poulter and McDowell got off to great starts and put a lot of pressure on me. But I am swinging well and putting well so I thought just stick to my game plan and play the golf course how I want to play it and it's going to come.
I played really well the last few holes on the front nine and then had a great back nine. The guys made it really interesting but I just played really well coming down the stretch.
The last few holes here you can make some birdies. It was a lot of fun out there, it was a good match from both of them. They put a lot of pressure on me but I am really proud of myself and the way I handled it.
Rival McDowell, who moves closer to Henrik Stenson at the top of the Race to Dubai rankings, picked out Johnson's second shot at 13 as the shot that helped the American clinch the title, per European Tour.
However, with the pressure on from both his major rivals, it is difficult to pick anything other than Johnson's chip from the front of the green on 16 for eagle as the shot of the day.
Day 3: Johnson Holds On, Despite Himself
Dustin Johnson ended the third round with a three shot lead on 18 under, despite carding two double bogeys on the back nine.
For the second day in a row, Johnson hit 30 over the first nine holes, fuelling expectation for another incredible round. Alas, a repeat of Day 2's heroics was thwarted by a six on the par four 10th,as well as a visit to the water en route to a seven on the final hole.
That cut Johnson's overnight lead of five shots to three, but he still carded a six-under 66 for the day and remains in command of the tournament.
Speaking to EuropeanTour.com, the 29-year-old remained positive, but aware of his errors:
It was another really good day. I played really well; obviously the two doubles hurt a little bit.
To have a three shot lead going into the last day is good, and looking forward to the challenge. I still have to play really well—the guys that are right behind me, they are playing very well too.
Making two doubles, there's no excuse for that. Especially the way I'm playing right now, it shouldn't happen.
Last year's champion Ian Poulter continued his improvement, hitting a magnificent 63 to take three shots off Johnson's overnight lead.
It was a great battle between the top two, with both men hitting five birdies in a row and producing some excellent putts.
Only Tiger Woods has successfully defended a World Golf Championships title, so Poulter will be keen to keep the pressure on across the final day.
Elsewhere, Greame McDowell carded a 64 to sit one shot behind Poulter and ensure a combative final round.
Graeme Delaet, Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy round up the top six, all on 12 under. McIlroy, in particular, was able improve on his previous round, carding a 65 compared to Day 2's disappointing 72.
Day 2: Johnson Equals Course Record
If Day 1 was all about Rory McIlroy, the second round belonged to Dustin Johnson as he equalled the Sheshan International course record to take an enormous five-stroke lead at the top of the leaderboard.
Johnson fired an enthralling 9-under-par 63 to propel himself to the front of the pack. He enters the weekend on 12-under, with a huge cushion to protect his lead.
McIlroy remains in the hunt alongside Bubba Watson and Boo Weekley, but the trio have much to do from their current 7-under scores.
For Johnson it was all about starting and ending well. He birdied six of his first seven, as well as four of his last six. He explained his approach to the European Tour's official website:
I just play my game and I play pretty aggressive. That's my game, so tomorrow I'm going to go out and try to do the same thing I did today. I didn't play really aggressive today, I just took what the golf course gave me and just tried to hit quality golf shots to give myself looks at birdies.
The major change in Johnson's game on Friday, when compared to the opening round, was his driving. He improved his accuracy from 28.57 percent to 57.14, which had a knock-on effect in his Greens in Regulation column—making 77.78 percent according to the official HSBC Champions leaderboard.
When contrasted to McIlroy, who posted a level-par 72 to stay on 7-under, Johnson's approach to the 18th summed up the difference between the two players.
McIlroy's tee shot landed within a yard of the water and, undeterred, he went for the green in two—finding the lake. It cost him a bogey.
Johnson also choked his drive, finding the trees to the left side. However, he smartly chose to lay up, eventually taking a birdie.
McIlroy has a dual aim this week, targeting victory while also knowing he must finish high enough to book his place at the World Tour Championship in Dubai. He told the Tour's official site:
I think I hit the first ten greens, and then I made bogey on 11 and I had a chance at 12 and then from there on 13, I hit a bad drive up the left and that just knocked my confidence a little bit and I started to struggle from there.
A bit of work on the range this afternoon and hopefully come out tomorrow and play a bit better.
McIlroy's round allowed Watson and Weekley to enter the weekend level with the former world No. 1, with Weekley showing the better form after he carded a 67. The American was flawless through 18 holes on Friday and looks to have control over his ball.
There is a healthy chasing pack behind that trio on 6-under, featuring the likes of Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els, Graeme McDowell and Ian Poulter.
Poulter, who carded a 67, is aiming to become only the second man behind Tiger Woods to defend a WGC title.
Day 1: McIlroy Fires 7-Under to Take 2-Shot Lead
Rory McIlroy made a strong start at the Sheshan golf club on Thursday, carding a seven-under-par round of 65 to sit two shots clear of his closest challengers.
During a barren year that has seen McIlroy go without silverware, other than in his recent exhibition win over Tiger Woods, he for once looked assured on his way to eight birdies.
The solitary bogey did not spoil a wonderful round, which was made to look even better when Phil Mickelson capitulated over the final two holes of his day, falling from six-under to one-under.
Although tough to call a highlight, Mickelson's spectacular slump was arguably the moment of the day. He twice found water at the 8th (his 17th), taking nine shots to finally get the job done on the par-five.
McIlroy, who has struggled off the tee for the biggest part of the year, was in total control of his ball. The putter arguably cost him an even better score, but his irons were smooth and reliable as he set the pace for others to chase.
He told BBC Sport:
It's only one round of golf, but it's definitely the way I wanted, and needed, to start this week, keeping in mind that I obviously want to play myself into Dubai and try to pick up my first win of the season, as well.
It's one of the best rounds I've played this season. I shot 64 at Boston, so that was a good round of golf.
But this is probably better just because it was a little trickier conditions. There was a bit of breeze and you've got to play good golf to shoot seven under around this place.
McIlroy's start gives him an almighty chance of confirming his place at the World Tour Championship in Dubai, while victory would hand him a much-needed confidence boost heading into the new season.
Gonzalo Fdez-Castano and Jamie Donaldson are his closest challengers heading into Round 2, both two strokes back on 5-under.