It only took four holes over two days for Dustin Johnson to lose a six-shot lead in the HSBC Champions in Shanghai.
All that mattered was the high-powered kick down the stretch Sunday at Sheshan International that brought him the biggest win of his career.
In what felt like the end of a long year and beginning of a new season, Johnson broke loose from a three-way challenge on the back nine by playing a five-hole stretch in 5-under par. Johnson closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-shot win over Ian Poulter to capture his first World Golf Championship title.
“It’s the biggest win I’ve had in my career so far,” he said. “Those guys put a lot of pressure on me. I’m really proud of the way I handled myself.”
One shot behind with six holes to play, Johnson smashed his drive over the corner of a dogleg on the 13th hole that left him a short wedge into 5 feet for birdie to catch Poulter.
Right when it looked as though he would fall behind again, Johnson holed a 20-foot birdie putt on the next hole.
It was a pitch-in for eagle that effectively won the tournament for him.
With a one-shot lead playing the par-4 16th, Johnson hit a 3-iron about 25 yards short of the green with a front pin. The pitch was perfect, rolling into the cup like it was a putt.
Poulter and Graeme McDowell, who each had a share of the lead at some point, looked capable of winning until Johnson’s late run. Poulter and McDowell each closed with a 66, the same score as Johnson.
Johnson set the tournament record at 24-under 264.
CHAMPIONS: Fred Couples won the Champions Tour’s season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship, and Kenny Perry topped the yearlong points race to earn a $1 million annuity.
Couples ended a 16-event winless streak dating to the Senior British Open in July 2012, closing with a 2-uunder 69 for a six-stroke victory over Bernhard Langer, Peter Senior and Mark O’Meara. The Hall of Famer has nine victories in four seasons on the 50-and-over tour after winning 15 times on the PGA Tour.
Couples finished at 17-under 267 at TPC Harding Park.
Langer, second behind Perry in the Charles Schwab Cup standings, shot a 67. Senior had a 69, and O’Meara closed with a double bogey for a 70.
Perry had a 68 to tie for fifth at 10 under.
He led the tour with three victories, taking the Senior Players Championship and U.S. Senior Open in consecutive tour starts and winning the AT&T Championship last week in San Antonio.
PGA: Frank Bensel became the second three-time winner in PGA Assistant Championship history, shooting a 3-under 69 in windy conditions for a six-stroke victory.
The 45-year-old Bensel, the PGA assistant professional at Century Country Club in Purchase, N.Y., also won in 2010 and 2011. He matched the record set by Kyle Flinton of Edmond, Okla., the winner in 2002, ‘03 and ‘05.
Bensel finished at 10-under 278 and earned $9,000.
Charles Frost of Charlotte, N.C., shot a 76 to finish second. Jeff Seavey of Homosassa, Fla., and Ray Franz Jr. of Mount Pleasant, S.C., tied for third at 2 under. They each shot 72.
Bensel eagled the par-5 first hole and birdied the par-4 second to take the lead for good.