Francesco Molinari claimed a stunning wire-to-wire victory at the World Golf Championships – HSBC Champions following a titanic battle with World Number One Lee Westwood.
Molinari - who claimed his only previous European Tour win at the 2006 Italian Open - carded a final round 67 to retain the one-shot lead he took into the final round at Sheshan International GC.
Westwood produced a superb display throughout the week to illustrate why he has moved to the top of the Official World Golf Rankings.
But Molinari - who turns 28 on Monday - kept him at bay to secure the perfect early birthday present.
“It feels really special right now,” said the Italian. “I'm obviously amazed with the way I played and, you know, to have the number one player in the world trailing you by one shot, it's not easy.
“In a sense I feel for Lee because he probably deserved to win the tournament as well.
“I’ve been in his position a few times so I know it’s not easy, but finally it was my time.
“It’s definitely the best I’ve putted and chipped and I think that was the difference compared to the many second places I’ve had in the past.
“It was just the perfect week.”
Molinari’s win continues a wonderful season for Italian golf.
His brother Edoardo claimed victories at The Barclays Scottish Open and Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, while 17 year old Matteo Manassero triumphed at the CASTELLÓ MASTERS Costa Azahar last month.
“It keeps getting better and better,” said Molinari. “I don’t know where we are going to go from here.
“It’s great to have three European Tour winners in the same season and it’s something no-one could have expected.”
Westwood was keen to take the positives from a week in which he cemented his position as World Number One.
“There’s not really any negatives other than the fact I didn’t win the tournament,” he said. “I finished 18 under par, nine clear of third, had only two bogeys on the week.
“Sometimes somebody just plays a bit better and that’s what Francesco did.
“He’s renowned for his long game, but his short game was there, certainly over the weekend when we played together.
“The greens he missed, he chipped it up and he’s renowned for struggling on the shorter putts, but other than one today he was flawless over the last two days.
“I thought he deserved to win. But it’s been a very good week and I’ve played well so I’m pleased.”
Molinari was the first to strike on Sunday morning, with a birdie at the second taking him two clear of Westwood.
The leading duo matched each other shot for shot for the remainder of the front nine, picking up birdies at the third, fifth and eighth holes, before Westwood reduced his arrears with a three at the tenth.
Molinari spurned an opportunity to extend his lead at the par five 14th when he missed a short putt for a four.
The 15th also passed by without a change to either man’s score, although Westwood was forced to hole a superb 12 footer to salvage his par.
Molinari was to pull clear again at the next - a short par four - after Westwood ran into trouble attempting to drive the green.
The Englishman was left with a treacherous pitch over a greenside bunker and had to settle for a par. Molinari, meanwhile, opted to lay up with his tee shot and the move paid off as a superb wedge set up a simple birdie chance, which he duly converted.
Westwood looked set to slip further back at the par three 17th after finding the sand, but he once again showed his mettle with a gutsy par putt to remain two behind.
He then found the green in two at 18 to increase the pressure on Molinari, but was unable to sink his eagle putt.
Richie Ramsay and Luke Donald shared third place on nine under, the former securing his place in the Dubai World Championship presented by DP World as a result.
Ramsay said: “I’ve shown everyone that I can compete on a very tough golf course that’s playing quite long so it’s great to see that I can do that.
I knew one good finish would get me into the Race to Dubai and with the prize fund here and the calibre of players the one place I wanted it was here.
“The plan has worked out fantastically well.”
The top five comprised entirely of European Tour members, with Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy firing seven birdies in a closing 67 to finish a shot behind Ramsay and Donald.