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Tuesday, 01 January 2013
Dustin Johnson  (Getty Images)
Dustin Johnson (Getty Images)
Dustin Johnson survived a final round European assault to claim the WGC-HSBC Champions after a fascinating finish in Shanghai.

The American recovered superbly from seeing his overnight three shot lead wiped out in the first two holes with a decisive scoring burst - playing the last six holes in five under par at Sheshan International to card a closing 66 and finish 24 under par, three ahead of defending champion Ian Poulter.

All three members of the final group shot 66, meaning Poulter finished one ahead of Ryder Cup team-mate Graeme McDowell, with another player responsible for the 'Miracle at Medinah', Spain's Sergio Garcia, two shots behind in fourth after a closing 63.

Johnson began the final round three shots clear of Poulter but three-putted the opening hole as the Englishman birdied the first and second, while McDowell birdied the first three to share the lead with Poulter.

Birdies on the eighth and ninth got Johnson back into a share of the lead and although Poulter edged in front with a birdie on the 12th, Johnson birdied the 13th and matched Poulter's birdie on the 14th to set up a grandstand finish.

Johnson was left alone in the lead when Poulter was unable to get up-and-down from a greenside bunker on the 15th, although with the 16th being a reachable par four and the par five 18th still to come, the result was far from settled.

None of the final group tried to drive the green on the 16th, although Johnson's length meant he could hit a long iron just ten yards short and he promptly chipped in for an eagle two.

Poulter's birdie putt did not look like going in until it just caught the left edge of the hole and wobbled in, but Johnson still held a two shot lead on 23 under with two to play.

That became a three shot lead thanks to a birdie on the 17th from five feet and gave Johnson a welcome cushion playing the 18th, the hole where he drove into the water to run up a double bogey seven on Saturday.

Unsurprisingly Johnson hit an iron off the tee and laid up with his second, eventually missing a short birdie putt after Poulter and McDowell had done likewise.

It had no effect on the result however, the 29 year old Johnson claiming his eighth US PGA Tour victory – his first on The European Tour - and the first prize of €1,012,145.

Speaking at the trophy presentation, Johnson said: "I didn't get off to the best start and Poulter and McDowell got off to great starts and put a lot of pressure on me, but I am swinging well and putting well so I thought just stick to my game plan and play the golf course how I want to play it and it's going to come.

"I played really well the last few holes on the front nine and then had a great back nine. The guys made it really interesting but I just played really well coming down the stretch.

"The last few holes here you can make some birdies. It was a lot of fun out there, it was a good match from both of them. They put a lot of pressure on me but I am really proud of myself and the way I handled it."

Johnson has not always handled such pressure so well, McDowell famously winning the 2010 US Open at Pebble Beach after Johnson squandered a three shot lead in the final round. After a triple-bogey on the second hole and double-bogey on the third, Johnson shot a closing 82 and McDowell's 74 was enough to win by one from France's Grégory Havret.

"It takes a while to learn that (maturity and patience)," Johnson added. "I wish I would have had some of that a few times a few years ago, but you learn from your mistakes and try to get better from them and I think I showed a lot of patience and a lot of discipline with clubs I picked and shot selection.

"This is probably my biggest win and hopefully there are better things to come."

Poulter climbs to fourth in The Race to Dubai as a result of his runner-up finish, while McDowell trimmed Henrik Stenson’s lead to under €150,000 ahead of the season’s penultimate event in Turkey next week.

“I guess it was a good defence,” said 37 year old Poulter. “Obviously a little disappointed not to put my hands back on the trophy, but 15 birdies and an eagle at the weekend is some pretty good golf. 

“It's exciting for the next few weeks ahead, and obviously it's some good points on the board for Ryder Cup and Race to Dubai.

“I'm in great form, I really am playing well. The work I've done, obviously leading up to this run of tournaments has really worked and I couldn't be hitting it any better right now and obviously rolling a few putts in.”


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