WGC – HSBC Champions

WGC – HSBC Champions

WGC – HSBC Champions
Shanghai, China
Winner: Rory McIlroy

Haotong Li had just thrilled his countrymen, shooting eight-under 64 for a one-shot lead in the first round of the World Golf Championships – HSBC Championship at red-roofed Sheshan International at Shanghai. “Obviously, it would be great joy,” he said, “for Chinese golfers and Chinese golf fans to have a Chinese player winning a WGC – HSBC Champions here in China. But for the next three days, anything could happen.”

Li was right. Anything did happen — “anything” being a free-wheeling no-cut battle of 78 international golfers in the fourth and final WGC event of 2019. And a battle that ended up with the surging Rory McIlroy taking his fourth win of the year on the first playoff hole over defending champion Xander Schauffele.

“Xander pushed me the whole way, or all 73 holes we played together this week,” McIlroy said. “He played great. He was battling a flu all week, and so the caliber of golf he played this week, it takes some doing. He birdied the last to get into the playoff, and then I produced two of the best shots of the day when I needed it, which was really cool.”

McIlroy shot Sheshan in 67-67-67-68, and Schauffele in 66-69-68-66, tying at 19-under 269. In the playoff, at the par-five 18th, McIlroy’s towering tee shot split the fairway. Schauffele caught the rough and had to lay up. He reached the green and two-putted from 12 feet for a par. McIlroy’s second was a four iron, rifled from 223 yards into the wind, to the green, 25 feet from the flag. He two-putted for a birdie and the win.

Schauffele was not disappointed, not considering that he spent most of the week fighting the flu. “I wasn’t expecting to play this well at the beginning of the week,” he said, “so I’m probably the happiest guy in the tournament.” Both had authored thrills. In the first round, McIlroy had a so-so par front nine then ran off four straight birdies from his 11th. In the second, he birdied four straight from No. 3, and eagled the 18th from three feet. He went the last 38 holes without a bogey. Schauffele bogeyed his starting hole, then birdied six of the next eight. In the second round, he had a ragged front nine, then had four birdies on the back. In the third round, he birdied the first three and the last three, and he closed with a seven-birdie, one-bogey 66 to tie McIlroy.

Louis Oosthuizen joined the hunt in the third round, launching a 65 with five straight birdies. He opened the final round with two birdies, then bogeyed twice around the turn. “You just can’t give away holes,” he said, shooting 69 and finishing third.

Possibly the biggest surprise of the week came from Phil Mickelson — in a decidedly un-Mickelson fashion. He shot 71-69-75-68, for a five-under 283, and tied for 28th out of the 77 finishers. But it wasn’t quite enough. The figures knocked him out of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time since 1993 — nearly 26 years. “It was a good run,” said Mickelson, age 49. “I’ll be back.”


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