McIlroy Wins Fourth Title of the Year in China
RORY McILROY secured his fourth title of 2019 in dramatic fashion when he defeated defending champion Xander Schauffele in a playoff in the WGC-HSBC Champions at Sheshan International Golf Club.
McIlroy began the final round with a one-shot lead and it remained that way as he stood on the 18th tee. A birdie from Schauffele saw him join McIlroy at 19 under and take it to extra holes but the American could not repeat last season's playoff triumph over Tony Finau. McIlroy hit a wonderful drive and found the green in two to set up a birdie which Schauffele could not match after finding a poor lie off the tee and being forced to lay up on the first trip back up the 18th. South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen was the third member of the final group and finished third at 17 under.
The win for McIlroy sees him join only Dustin Johnson and Tiger Woods as players to have won three of the four World Golf Championships events, after his victories at the Invitational in 2014 and the Match Play the following season. A 14th European Tour victory - and, remarkably, his first since 2016 - also sees him equal Darren Clarke's record. It was his 26th success worldwide.
"I got lucky in regulation not to go in the water and then it was a relief to hit those two shots in the playoff. There's a lot of stuff that people don't see behind the scenes just in terms of hard work and putting the hours in at home," he said. "But all of that, it's not work, really. It's playing golf for a living. I'd be in trouble if I did have to work for a living. To practise hard and to do all the right things and to see it pay off like this and get wins like this makes it all worthwhile.
"I have one more event left in Dubai and I want to finish the season off as well as I can. I really wanted to get another win before the end of the year and now that I've done that, it would be nice to get two wins.” His next target is to catch Brooks Koepka at the top of the world rankings.
Schauffele had been unwell for much of the week and was proud of his performance after playing all four days alongside McIlroy. "He's an elite player," he said. "When he's on, I'd say he's arguably the best player in the world. He made me play better. I know what I need to do to become a better player. My time will come. I'm looking forward to getting healthy, not coughing, sleeping - more important things than trying to win a golf tournament.”
McIlroy quickly had company at the top of the leaderboard when Oosthuizen holed a 15-footer for a birdie on the first and the 2010 Open champion took the lead when he got up and down from just over the back of the second. McIlroy joined him at the top of the leaderboard as he struck a glorious approach to the fifth. Schauffele birdied the second after hitting the green in two and also picked up a shot on the fifth but gave it straight back on the next. The 26-year-old hit a poor second on the seventh but holed a long putt for a birdie to get back within one before all three laid up on the eighth and put their approaches close for birdies.
Schauffele holed from 18 feet on the ninth to briefly join the lead but McIlroy had put his approach to six feet and he led alone as Oosthuizen dropped a shot after getting in trouble down the right off the tee. McIlroy led by two as he hit the pin with a fast chip from a nasty lie on the 14th, with Oosthuizen also making a birdie on the par five after a bogey on the 11th. Schauffele put an approach to five feet at the next to cut the lead to one and Oosthuizen hit a great approach to set up a birdie on the 16th.
The first European to 3 World Golf Championship Victories ???????????????????? pic.twitter.com/rE5FTss5NR— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) November 3, 2019
McIlroy flirted with the water off the tee on the last and had to lay up, leaving the door open for Schauffele's two putt birdie on the par five to set up the playoff. Oosthuizen finished par-par for a 69 that left him two shots clear of Mexico's Abraham Ancer, Frenchman Victor Perez and Austrian Matthias Schwab. Perez and Schwab both fired closing rounds of 66 in impressive World Golf Championships debuts, while Ancer signed for a 67. Matthew Fitzpatrick was at 14 under, two shots clear of Jason Kokrak, Patrick Reed and Paul Waring.
It was a big week for Perez and Schwab, who made it into the limited field event by virtue of their place in the top 30 of the Race to Dubai. Playing together, both players were challenging midway through the final round before eventually finishing four shots behind McIlroy.
Perez believes the Northern Irishman is the yardstick by which he should be measuring his progress. "I feel like he's a setting stone for us, the way he approaches the game," he said. "I'm very pleased with what I did and it just makes you want to work even harder. It's been a very good week. I think it's not just me. Obviously I'm finishing fourth but it's everybody around me and all the people that have helped me along the way that have allowed me to pull a very good performance like this on Sunday.”
THERE was also high drama at the conclusion of the LPGA Swinging Skirts in Taiwan. Defending champion Nelly Korda led the field by three shots with five holes to hole but then suffered a complete meltdown on the greens, missing three short par putts. In the end, she did well to birdie the final hole and force her way into a playoff with Minjee Lee and Caroline Masson, all of whom finished on 270, 18 under par.
Remarkably, Korda managed to hold it together when the three players tackled the 18th again. She struck a glorious approach to the par five and left her eagle putt two inches short of the hole. But her birdie turned out to be good enough.
Korda, who started the final round with a three-stroke lead over Lee, looked certain to win in regulation after a birdie on the par-five 12th, but then came those three dropped shots and she ended up going to the final hole trailing Masson and Lee by a shot. Masson had taken the lead after birdies at the 15th and 16th but was unable to birdie the 18th in regulation.
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