Lefty holds nerve for dramatic triumph
Phil Mickelson survived a nervous final hole to edge out South Africa’s Ernie Els at the WGC-HSBC Champions.
The USA’s World number two Phil Mickelson survived a nervous final hole in Shanghai on Sunday to edge out South Africa’s Ernie Els by one shot and win the WGC-HSBC Champions following a drama-laden final round.
With Els in the clubhouse following a course record-matching nine-under-par 63, the third of the day, Mickelson survived finding the rough twice coming down the last to claim a second HSBC Champions title in three years and second WGC title of his career following March’s CA Championship success.
Mickelson signed for a final round three under 69 to finish with a winning 17-under-par overall that earned him a first prize of US1.2 million.
Fellow three-time major winner Els, who played sublime golf all day and who at 10-under for the round, had moved into the lead at 17-under when he hit his approach to the 18th green, will be left to rue what so easily could have been a great comeback victory.
This after seeing that fatal approach at the last fall short and plop into the pond guarding the front of the green.
The bogey that followed dropped him to 16-under and finally demoted him to second place when Mickelson went to 17-under at the 17th and then hung on with that closing par to win.
The big South African, devastated when Mickelson beat him with a birdie on the final hole of the 2004 Masters, had 218 yards to the front of the 18th green on Sunday on a down slope in the fairway, not enough for him to hit 4-iron, while a 3-iron might go over the green and down the bank into the water.
He opted to hit a high cut with his 5-wood and “basically duffed it.”
“But I can’t think about that,” Els said, who started the round seven shots behind. “For me to come back all the way, to actually share the lead at that point, was quite nice. I’m disappointed about that, but I’m going to really think about the 63 I shot.”
Mickelson was not without his setbacks on a day of see-saw swings in fortunes for all the leading antagonist, but nothing looked as if it would be more lethal to his hopes of a 4th victory this year than the goings on at the 16th.
Here he was left of the 288-yard green in short rough, a pot bunker separating him from the flag. He went for a high flop shot, and was stunned when the club slid through the grass and barely moved the ball.
He next tried a bump-and-run that came up short and appeared destined to make bogey. His putt came off the hump of the green, and Mickelson pointed to the cup with his putter as it took one last turn to the left and dropped for par.
“I thought that was one of the best putts I’ve made in a long time,” Mickelson said. “When I made that putt — I didn’t know what Ernie was doing on 18 – but I knew I had a chance.
“It feels terrific to have won this tournament. This has been a very special event to have a World Golf Championships here in China, and to be the champion feels great.
“This is my last event of the year. I won’t play again until the end of January, and so to finish the year with this victory feels wonderful.”
Holding an overnight two-shot lead, Mickelson battled gamely against Els and Moore to lead at the turn after a 36 which included two birdies and two bogeys.
After being overhauled by a resurgent Els, Mickelson hit three more birdies coming home to eventually prevail, but the left-hander needed to nail that difficult putt from 15 feet at the 16th hole to save par and ultimately salvage the title, the 42nd Worldwide title of his career.
“Ernie played one of the greatest rounds, shot a course record, along with Rory and I was very fortunate to come out on top. This feels terrific, because I had to fight very hard. Nothing came easy. I didn’t hit it great. The putts weren’t falling, and yet, I hung in there, too, and was able to win by one.
“The putt (on 16) was the critical moment for me. It was not an easy putt. It broke quite a bit and I had to feed it in from the side, and it was the best putt I made all week,”added Mickelson.
Former US Amateur champion Ryan Moore carded a final round 68 to finish two shots off the pace in third, with Rory McIlroy boosting his Race to Dubai bid after a brilliant Els-matching 63 for fourth at 14-under-par.
Nick Watney’s final round 71 ensured fifth ahead of another Race to Dubai contender Martin Kaymer (67) and an out-of-sorts Tiger Woods.
The world number one began the final round two shots behind Mickelson in second, but a level par 72 left Woods five adrift and tied for sixth with Kaymer following runner-up finishes on his previous two trips to Shanghai.
On a day Woods uncharacteristically missed several short putts, his round was summed up at the last as he hit through the green and into water to ship a third bogey of the day.
Daisuke Maruyama, an Asian Tour member, was the first to set the new course mark of 63 on Sunday thanks to eight birdies and a glorious eagle at the last hole where he hit a five wood to within three feet of the pin.
“Being the first match out in the morning, the greens were beautiful and I just holed everything,” said Maruyama, who won this year’s Panasonic Open on the Asian Tour.
ALL THE FINAL ROUND SCORES
(Gbr & Irl unless stated, par 72):
271 Phil Mickelson (USA) 69 66 67 69
272 Ernie Els (Rsa) 70 71 68 63
273 Ryan Moore (USA) 66 69 70 68
274 Rory McIlroy 73 68 70 63
275 Nick Watney (USA) 64 70 70 71
276 Tiger Woods (USA) 67 67 70 72, Martin Kaymer (Ger) 66 74 69 67
277 Lee Westwood 70 71 65 71, Alvaro Quiros (Spa) 69 66 76 66
278 Francesco Molinari (Ita) 73 67 70 68, Soren Kjeldsen (Den) 69 72 71 66, Anthony Kim (USA) 67 69 72 70, Pat Perez (USA) 68 69 75 66, Retief Goosen (Rsa) 71 71 68 68, Geoff Ogilvy (Aus) 72 74 65 67, Daisuke Maruyama (Jpn) 72 69 74 63
279 Ryo Ishikawa (Jpn) 72 67 70 70, Koumei Oda (Jpn) 70 69 72 68
280 Alexander Noren (Swe) 70 71 71 68, Matt Kuchar (USA) 68 72 72 68, Jyoti Randhawa (Ind) 68 70 70 72, Thongchai Jaidee (Tha) 71 69 70 70
281 Robert Allenby (Aus) 73 69 70 69, Sergio Garcia (Spa) 75 70 69 67
282 Brian Gay (USA) 69 69 72 72, Camilo Villegas (Col) 70 69 73 70, Padraig Harrington 74 69 72 67
283 Ross Fisher 70 70 72 71, Shane Lowry 66 74 71 72, Simon Dyson 72 69 72 70
284 Peter Hanson (Swe) 72 72 75 65, Mark Brown (Nzl) 71 74 71 68
285 Jeev Milkha Singh (Ind) 73 72 70 70, James Kingston (Rsa) 70 70 75 70, Yong-eun Yang (Kor) 72 71 75 67, Scott Strange (Aus) 71 72 74 68, Wen-Tang Lin (Tpe) 67 72 70 76, Chapchai Nirat (Tha) 71 74 70 70, Shingo Katayama (Jpn) 75 68 77 65
287 Rodney Pampling (Aus) 69 72 75 71, Garth Mulroy (Rsa) 69 72 76 70, Jason Dufner (USA) 69 71 73 74, Wen-chong Liang (Chn) 73 73 73 68, Henrik Stenson (Swe) 69 72 74 72
288 Ricardo Gonzalez (Arg) 74 71 70 73, Rory Sabbatini (Rsa) 74 68 76 70, Oliver Wilson 71 72 73 72, Ian Poulter 72 69 79 68, Greg Chalmers (Aus) 72 74 73 69, Gonzalo Fdez-Castano (Spa) 73 73 72 70
289 Prayad Marksaeng (Tha) 81 69 70 69, Yuta Ikeda (Jpn) 73 73 71 72, Stewart Cink (USA) 71 74 75 69
290 Christian Cevaer (Fra) 73 77
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