Ian Poulter said at the start of last week that despite his Ryder Cup heroics, he felt his season would not be complete without a tournament victory. He duly delivered in style at the WGC-HSBC Champions on Sunday, shooting a 65 for a two-shot win at Mission Hills.
The Englishman has not had a winless season since 2008, and he ensured that run continued with an eight-birdie, one-bogey display, seeing off the challenge of two-time winner Phil Mickelson.
Overnight leader Lee Westwood’s title bid faded with a double bogey at the par-3 fifth and evaporated completely with three bogeys on the back nine.
Mickelson was right in contention, however, and when Poulter had his only bogey of the day at the 17th, he closed to just one shot playing in the group behind. Poulter then found sand with his second to the 18th, and it looked like a US-Europe Ryder Cup style play-off could be on the cards.
But Mickelson found a disastrous lie between two bunkers with his tee shot on the par-3 17th, then failed to make the green with his second. Poulter chipped to about eight feet on the 18th, Mickelson bogeyed 17, and Poulter held his nerve to hole out and win by two shots.
“I knew if I did the right things and stayed patient, I’d be right there at the end, so it’s great to get the win,” said Poulter, who won the WGC-Accenture World Matchplay in 2010. His previous best at a strokeplay WGC event was joint second in the 2006 Cadillac Championship.
“Looking at where Louis [Oosthuizen] was after two days, he was so far out in front, but I knew there was a good round of golf out on that golf course.
“I did know the situation [with Mickelson], it was a huge birdie I got on 15 [an impressive 12-foot putt to maintain the gap].
“On the last I just tried to stay out the water, my short game’s been good and I felt I could make the up and down.
“I feel confident when I’m in good form. I’ve been in good form for a while, so it’s great to finally get my hands on a trophy.”
As well as the trophy, Poulter gets his hands on US$1.2 million.
Jason Dufner (64), Scott Piercy (65) and Ernie Els (67) joined Mickelson (68) in a tie for second on 19 under, while overnight joint leaders Oosthuizen and Westwood had to settle for joint sixth one shot further back after they both went round in level par.
Japan’s Hiroyuki Fujita (67) and Thailand’s Prom Meesawat (68) were top Asians in 14-under joint 11th.
China’s Liang Wenchong had a 68 to finish on nine under (joint 24th), but Wu Ashun had his first over par round (75), to slip to four under (joint 36th).
The tournament will be played in Shanghai Sheshan International Course next season after sponsors HSBC renewed their backing in a three-year deal.
In a boost to Asian and Chinese golf, it will be part of the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup schedule, with money earned counting towards the PGA Tour. The winner will also get a three-year exemption to the American tour, and prize money will be increased to US$8.5 million, from US$7 million.