5 Things: Late eagle propels Johnson to HSBC victory

Dustin Johnson acknowledges the crowd after he won the HSBC Champions.
Dustin Johnson acknowledges the crowd after he won the HSBC Champions. ( Associated Press )

Sunday, November 3, 2013

It looks like an easy romp to victory for one American, but, as usual, the final scoreboard doesn’t tell the whole story. Dustin Johnson won the WGC–HSBC Champions in Shanghai, but not before two Europeans chased him all the way to the finish. Here are 5 Things you need to know from the last World Golf Championship event of 2013.

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1. EAGLE HAS LANDED: Dustin Johnson probably should have cantered his way to victory, but the win wasn’t cut and dried until three holes from the end. After an opening 69, Johnson took the lead with a 9-under 63 and left his chasers eating dust.

A third-round 66 gave him a three-shot lead heading into the final round. Instead of pulling away, Johnson was overhauled by nearest chasers Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell early on the front nine of the final round.

The short 16th hole ultimately settled the tournament. None of the leading trio tried to drive the green. Johnson didn’t need to. He hit an iron off the tee and then promptly sealed the victory when he chipped in for an eagle. A birdie at the 17th from 8 feet allowed him to stroll the 18th in comfort toward his eighth PGA Tour victory.

“This is probably my biggest win," he said, "and hopefully there are better things to come.”

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2. WGC SLAM FOR U.S.: Johnson’s victory, his first WGC win in 17 attempts, completes a U.S. slam in this year’s WGC events. Matt Kuchar won the Accenture Match Play Championship, and Tiger Woods took the Cadillac and Bridgestone events. It’s the first time in WGC history that American golfers have won all four WGC tournaments in the same season.

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3. POULTER PRIMED: Poulter was trying to defend the title he won 12 months ago. Indeed, his 21-under score matched his winning score of a year ago. He heads toward this week's Turkish Airlines Open and next week’s DP World Championship in Dubai with a good chance of ending the season with a win.

“I'm in great form," Poulter said. "I really am playing well. I couldn't be hitting it any better right now.”

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4. BOOKED FOR DUBAI: Rory McIlroy turned up in China with his place in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in doubt. No. 62 on the money list and needing to get into the top 60 to play Dubai, McIlroy took the first-round lead with a 7-under 65, the first time he has held an outright first-round lead since winning the 2011 U.S. Open.

“It’s a great start," McIlroy said. "It’s only one round of golf, but it’s definitely the way I wanted and needed to start this week, keeping in mind that I obviously want to play myself into Dubai and try to pick up my first win of the season, as well.”

McIlroy posted further rounds of 72, 67 and 69 to finish T-6 to move to 38th on the European money list and earn a spot in Dubai.

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5. LAST CHANCE: McIlroy might have booked his place in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship but fellow major winners Padraig Harrington and Paul Lawrie are on the outside looking in with only one qualifying tournament left, this week’s Turkish Airlines Open. Three-time major winner Harrington is No. 67 on the money list, while 1999 Open Championship winner Lawrie is No. 64.

England’s Danny Willett occupies the 60th and final qualifying place on the money list for Dubai, with €522,478 in earnings. Lawrie trails by just over €32,000, with Harrington over €78,000 in arrears. They need good finishes to get to Dubai. With a $7 million Turkish prize fund, both can earn spots in the season finale.

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