Just weeks after a dominating performance at the Ryder Cup, Ian Poulter fired a final-round 65 to recoup a four-stroke deficit from Ryder Cup teammate Lee Westwoood and capture the World Golf Championships-WHC HSBC Champions title in China.
The win came against a limited field of 78 which included seven of the world’s top 10 along with 16 Ryder Cup participants. It was Poulter’s first title since the 2011 World Match Play and 2nd WGC title (he also won the 2010 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship).
“I’ve only been one season without a victory and I certainly didn’t want to go another one,” Poulter said. “As well as I’ve played this year, it would have been a disappointment personally to have gone the year without winning.”
The tournament was held at the 7301-yard Olazabel course at Mission Hills Golf Club, but it could hardly defend itself from the birdie onslaught over the weekend that consisted of five different lead changes on Sunday by a list of major championship-type pursuers.
For the victory, Poulter had to chase down Round 3 leaders Louis Oosthuizen and Lee Westwood. Also win the mix was Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson, Jason Dufner and Scott Piercy, who all tied for second at 19-under. Mickelson had a legitimate opportunity to win, but with a bogey at the par-4 12th that was followed by a rally killing 4 at the par-3 17th, his chances were squandered.
“I saw what he was doing,” Mickelson said. “I was aware, so I tried to carve a few shots in to some of the pins and wasn’t able to get close enough to them to make birdies to catch him.”
Westwood and Oostheuizen struggled in the final round, shooting rounds of even-par 72. Westwoood’s round was the polar opposite of his 11-birdie 61 on Saturday. After battling a cool putter on the front side, he faltered on the back nine with three bogeys. Oosthuizen repeated his Deutsche Bank performance with white hot play in the first three rounds followed by an uneventful Sunday. Both players finished in a tie for 6th.
Poulter opened his Sunday with four birdies on the front side to push him towards the top of the leader board and he followed that with four more on the back to solidify the victory. Poulter’s only blip came on the par-3 17th, where he made his first bogey of the day. But Poulter composed himself on the final hole, where things started to get nervy for the Englishman.His approach shot on the closing hole left him in a greenside bunker, but he recovered to 8 feet, a putt which he knocked in for a two-shot victory and a $1.2 million pay day.
“I’ve already spent the check last week,” Poulter said after the round. “Yes, it was a vehicle and yes, it was very expensive.”
It’s a good thing he came to play on Sunday.