Justin Rose soared back to the top of the world rankings after edging out Haotong Li in a thrilling finish at the Turkish Airlines Open.
Rose back to winning ways after dramatic Sunday in China
The final round at the HSBC Champions was as fascinating as they come. It ended with Justin Rose lifting his second WGC title.
On the 1st tee on Sunday, Justin Rose was eight shots behind leader Dustin Johnson. At the turn he was six back. By 16, he was the co-leader. And when he signed for a final-round 67, he had won by two.
A gold medal aside at last year’s Olympics, Rose’s victory at the HSBC Champions in China is his first for exactly two years, and his second WGC title.
Johnson, meanwhile, carded a 77 to finish in a tie for 2nd with Henrik Stenson and Brooks Koepka. It meant he missed the chance to become the first player to win three WGC events in a calendar year.
For Johnson, it’s a case of what might have been. He was still in control even as the leaders headed into the back 9. Rose had cancelled out three birdies with three bogeys and had gone out in a level-par 36, which cut Johnson’s lead from eight to six, but no one could have foreseen what happened next.
While Johnson dropped three more shots at 12, 15 and 16, Rose ploughed through the top of the leaderboard, picking them off one-by-one, with gains at 11, 12, 14, 16 and 17.
At this point, he was standing on the final tee knowing he could make a bogey 6 and still win.
Who could have called that at the start of the day? Certainly not Rose himself.
“It’s the kind of day you certainly don’t expect,” he told reporters at Sheshan International “It’s the kind of day you hope for, dream for, but a lot of things need to go your way in order for a day like today to happen coming from eight shots behind, especially going against a player like DJ.
“It was the perfect type of weather conditions to make a comeback. This is the type of day, when you are playing with a lead, every hole seems difficult. Obviously someone is still capable of playing a special round of golf.
“And obviously my back nine was just amazing today. It was one of the best back nines I’ve played in a long, long time, and to do it at the right time was amazing. I guess everything fell into place. I needed a lot of things to go my way, including my good play, but also I needed a little bit of help from DJ and on a day like today, it was easy for a leader to make some mistakes.
“I’ve got to stay quite focused at the moment because this win gives me the opportunity to do very well in the Race to Dubai, so Turkey becomes a very important tournament for me, and so this has kind of made things even more focused now for the rest of the season.”
Johnson, meanwhile, says he “felt fine” and he “just couldn’t get anything going”.
He added: “It was tough conditions today. I felt like I actually drove it pretty well. Even making the turn, I’m 2-over, which is fine. I know I’ve got to just play solid on the back 9 but I didn’t make any putts. I felt like I rolled it good, just nothing was going in the hole.
“I hit a couple really bad iron shots, that was probably the key there on 14. I just chunked it. It was pretty simple.”
Dustin Johnson shot a 68 on day one but wasn’t overly pleased with his mallet putter. So he got the boys on the tour truck to make him a new one up, the TaylorMade Spider model that he likes but with a firmer insert, and he came home in 29 shots for a nine-under 63.
“I really wasn’t pleased with the putter I used so the guys here in China made me one right before I walked to the tee,” said Johnson. “I hit a few putts on the practice green with it and I was like, ‘Oh, this will work pretty well.’ Went out and holed a lot of putts so I kind of like it.”
Matt Kuchar had intended to play Japan, China and Turkey but things haven’t worked out as Matty had intended. One of his major sponsors Bridgestone back a tournament in Japan so Kuchar was there and he made it through to the weekend after taking in some Sumo wrestling and a tour of a ninja training studio.
He and his family then had to evacuate due to Typhoon Lan. His family headed home to the States and he made his way on to China for the HSBC.
This week he finished in a tie for 31st after a final-round 78, but that’s it for the time being as he’s pulled out of the Turkish Airlines Open after both countries stopped issuing non-immigrant visas.
”It looked like things were getting to a point where it was better not to go,” Kuchar said. ”I did some homework with a US senator friend of mine who checked with the State Department. When the US stops issuing visas, there’s an issue.”
Shugo Imahira was disqualified after missing his 10.35 tee time on Saturday. The Japanese wonder had “mistakenly seen a wrong starting time”. He wasn’t flying along after opening efforts of 72-79, but there was still the small consolation of the pot for last place which was a cool $43,000.
And how is this for mental fortitude? Henrik Stenson is prone to the very odd shank though, instead of curling up into a small ball and crying, the 2016 Open champ did what all good tour pros do. He chipped it up to 15 feet and knocked her in for a regulation par. No pictures and all that.
On Friday he found himself back on the 13th fairway and, rather than holding on to it and pulling it left like every single amateur in the world would do, he took out the flag. And two putt for par. No pictures and all that.