WGC – HSBC Champions 2017
October 29, 2017
Justin Rose took advantage of a record-tying collapse by Dustin Johnson and rallied from eight shots behind to win the HSBC Champions.
Johnson, the world's No. 1 player going for his third World Golf Championships title of the year, lost a six-shot lead Sunday. That matched the PGA Tour record for largest blown lead in the final round, most recently by Sergio Garcia at Quail Hollow in 2005, and most famously by Greg Norman in the 1996 Masters.
A one-man show turned into a four-man race, and Rose seized on the surprising opportunity in a wild, wind-blown final round.
He shot 31 on the back nine, getting into the game with birdies on the 13th and 14th, saving par with a 10-foot putt on the 15th, and then taking the lead with a birdie on the reachable par-4 16th and perhaps his best shot of the day into 3 feet on the par-3 17th.
It added to a 5-under 67, and he wound up winning by two shots.
''It's unbelievable,'' Rose said. ''We all know the position DJ was in, and I think today was the kind of day that the leader probably didn't want. Well, you want a six-shot lead any time, but this is the kind of day where that kind of swing is possible.''
Johnson, who made 22 birdies through 54 holes in building his six-shot lead, didn't make one in the wind-blown final round. His last hope was to made eagle on the par-5 closing hole at Sheshan International, and he smashed his second shot into the wind and over the water. It caught the right edge of the green before tumbling down the slope with enough pace to disappear into the water.
He finally made a putt - for par. He closed with a 77, his worst closing round with the lead since an 82 at Pebble Beach in the 2010 U.S. Open.
''I just could never get anything going and didn't hole any putts,'' Johnson said. ''It was pretty simple.''
It was simply shocking.
Rose two-putted from long range on the 18th for par to finish at 14-under 274 and win for the first time since capturing the gold medal at the Olympics last summer in Rio de Janeiro. Rose now has won every year since 2010.
''I was very aware that was slipping away,'' he said.
The HSBC Champions sure didn't look like a tournament where he would keep that streak going, not when he was eight shots behind going into the final round against Johnson, who has been No. 1 in the world since running off three straight victories against strong fields in the spring.
Johnson tied for second with Henrik Stenson (70) and Brooks Koepka (71), who also had their chances.
Stenson used a 4-wood to reach the front of the 16th green and set up a two-putt birdie that tied him with Rose for the lead. But on the 17th, after Rose had made his birdie in the group ahead, Stenson's ballooned his tee shot into the wind and came up well short and to the right, and he failed to save par.
''That wind was blowing hard,'' Stenson said. ''On this golf course, if you hit the wrong shot at the wrong time, it's going to penalize you. Certainly it penalized DJ a number of times today. That's why he came back to the rest of us. I played pretty strong, and then I hit one bad shot with possible the wrong club on 17. That kind of ended my chances to win the golf tournament.''
Koepka got up-and-down with a tough chip on the par-5 14th to get within one shot of Johnson. But on the next hole, after he and Johnson smashed drivers down the middle of the fairway, both came up well short into plugged lies in the bunker.
Johnson made bogey. Koepka came out to 30 feet on the fringe and three-putted for double bogey, effectively ended his hopes.
''It was blowing straight down for us, and all of a sudden it came in off the right,'' Koepka said of the 15th. ''That's why you saw Dustin and myself come up 10 and 15 yards short. It would have been just fine if it didn't just like that.''
Nothing went right for Johnson.
He made bogey on No. 1. He drove into the water on the par-5 second and had to scramble for bogey. Still, he made the turn at 15 under and had a three-shot lead, and he was driving it down the middle and long on every shot. He fell apart on the par-5 14th, when he chunked a short iron for his second shot and had to get up-and-down for par, bogeyed the 15th from the bunker, and then hooked an iron into deep rough.
His flop shot was a yard short of being perfect. Instead, it went into a bunker and he made bogey.
Rose won his second World Golf Championships title - the other was at Doral in 2012 - and moved to No. 6 in the world. Johnson gets a month off to consider one that got away from him in an ugly manner.
October 29, 2017
As part of a promotional stunt for the HSBC Champions earlier in the week, Dustin Johnson was among three players wearing superhero capes on a hotel roof, suspended by ropes a few feet in the air against a backdrop of downtown Shanghai at night.
''I should have pushed him off the platform,'' Henrik Stenson said with a laugh.
That might have been the only way to stop the world's No. 1 player from more domination in the World Golf Championships.
All it took was one hole Saturday for Johnson to seize control on a blustery day at Sheshan International, along with some help from Brooks Koepka. A four-shot swing on the par-5 eighth hole - a birdie for Johnson, a triple bogey for Koepka - sent Johnson on his way to a 4-under 68 and a six-shot lead going into the final round.
His only big number was not all his doing.
Johnson's drive down the right side of the 10th hole hit a cart path and took a hard bounce over a wall and into the bushes, leading to double bogey. Otherwise, it was the same recipe that took him to No. 1 in the world - big tee shots, control of his short irons and just enough putts to make him look tough to catch.
''I'm not going to change anything - play the golf course just how I've been playing it,'' said Johnson, who has 22 birdies in 54 holes and was at 17-under 199. ''I'm in a good position going into tomorrow, but I'm still going to have to go out and play a really solid round if I want to get it done.''
At stake is a chance to become the first player to win three World Golf Championships in the same year, a feat not even Tiger Woods with his 18 World Golf Championships managed to accomplish.
Johnson won the WGC-Mexico Championship and the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Texas.
He has made this look like a formality.
''He's going to wake up in good shape and go ahead and play a solid round of golf. If he does that, the tournament is over,'' said Justin Rose, who played in the final group with Johnson and stumbled to a 72 to fall eight shots behind. ''Other than that, playing for second barring something crazy from him.''
The crazy part belonged to Koepka.
Koepka, the U.S. Open champion and Johnson's close friend and neighbor, ran off three straight birdies to start the third round and built a two-shot lead. Johnson answered with a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-3 fourth. His drive on the par-4 seventh came up just short into the rough, and he hit a nifty flop-and-run to about 3 feet for another birdie to tie for the lead.
And then after a lengthy wait on the tee at No. 8, it all changed.
With the wind at the players' backs, and with sheer power of Johnson and Koepka, the line of the tee shot was over trees that have grown so tall in recent years they block the view of the landing area. Johnson hammered his tee shot and knew from experience he was fine.
Koepka caught his drive on the toe and it turned over from right-to-left and knew he was in trouble.
His caddie ran down toward the area to see if he had a shot, and quickly realized it was gone. Koepka hit his third shot from the tee, and then his fourth turned left into the hazard again. Koepka thought about a high-risk attempt out of the mess, but figured his best option was to take another penalty and go back to the fairway. It worked well until Koepka missed a 6-foot putt and took his 8.
Koepka had company in making a big number. Patrick Reed opened with a triple bogey and had four double bogeys on his way to an 82. Si Woo Kim made an 11 on No. 8.
More bothersome to Koepka was missing birdie chances on Nos. 9 and 11 and par chances on Nos. 10 and 12, which he felt could have helped him stay close.
''It was definitely windier today,'' he said. ''I didn't think it was playing that difficult. Definitely should be able to shoot 4 under out here, minus a triple and whatever else I had, a lot of bogeys.''
There were too many bogeys to keep up with Johnson, who never let anyone closer to him the rest of the day.
Koepka went from the bunker into the water on the 18th and had to scramble to save bogey, giving him a 73. He's still in the final group with Johnson, just like he had hoped. They have never competed against each other down the stretch, and barring a great start by Koepka or a stumble by Johnson, that probably won't be the case Sunday.
Stenson, who is finally starting to round into form, birdied three of his last five holes for a 69.
''If Dustin keeps on playing the way that he's done this week, I think it's going to be a one-man show tomorrow,'' Stenson said. ''But you never know. Tough wind, and this golf course has a couple of holes where you can certainly have a number. It's never over until it's over.''
October 28, 2017
Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka, close friends who live down the street from each other in Florida, are in the final group going into the weekend at the HSBC Champions. They are separated by one shot, so it might feel like one of their money matches when they play together at home.
There's just one problem with that.
''We don't really play much golf,'' Johnson said after his 9-under 63 for a one-shot lead Friday at Sheshan International. ''We go to the gym and we hang out, but we don't go to the golf course together. We played last Saturday, and that was the first time we played in ... I couldn't tell you how long. All year, probably.''
They won both their matches as partners at the Presidents Cup, and Koepka says they saw each other for 14 out of their 21 days at home.
It just didn't involve much golf.
That figures to change at the final World Golf Championships event of the year, and it could be quite a show.
Johnson, the No. 1 player in the world who has been alternating between two putters over the last few putts, brought a third option to Shanghai. This had a mallet head, and it lasted all of one round. So he got a fourth one - a TaylorMade Spider with a metal insert that wasn't quite as soft as the version he used to win three straight times in the spring. He hit a few putts, went onto the course and made just about everything.
''The guys here in China made me one. I got it right before I walked to the tee,'' Johnson said. ''I hit a few putts on the practice green with it and I was like, 'Oh, this will work pretty well.' Went out and holed a lot of putts today, so I kind of like it.''
Two of his closing birdie putts were in the 15-foot range, and he finished with a 5-foot slider on the 18th to reach 13-under 131.
Koepka, who led after the first round with a 64, had what he referred to as a relatively boring day, at least in the middle. He opened with two straight birdies, followed with 13 consecutive pars, and then birdied two of his last three holes for a 68.
They will be joined by Justin Rose (68), making that three of the last five U.S. Open champions in the final group Saturday.
Johnson and Koepka are naturals as friends. Both cut supremely athletic figures and are among the biggest hitters in golf. Neither gets overly worked up over anything. Their celebrations are subdued, even when winning U.S. Opens.
Koepka talks a little more, which is not much. He was one shot behind going into the final round of the U.S. Open and Johnson called him that Saturday night. Koepka described it as a ''long phone call for us. It was like two minutes.'' It was a rare conversation about golf. Johnson simply told him that he was playing well and not to worry about anything else.
''We both kind of have the same attitude,'' Koepka said. ''We're not going to take things too seriously. We like to relax. We like to work out. We've got the same interests, and that makes it easy. To be honest with you, I don't think we've ever really talked about golf. Maybe when we play practice rounds, that's about the only time we ever talk about golf. When we're away, we're away and I think that's kind of one of the beauties of our friendships.''
Johnson won the HSBC Champions in 2013, and he looks formidable when he's making putts, as was the case on Friday. After a relatively slow start, with birdies on both par 5s on the front, he ran off seven over his last nine holes for a 29 on the back nine. The two holes he failed to birdie were No. 11, where he missed a 10-foot birdie putt, and the par-5 14th, where he had 6-iron into the green for his second shot.
Koepka felt as though he left his share of shots out there, too. On three of the par 5s, he missed birdie chances from 8 feet or in.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand had a 70 and joined Rose at 9-under 135. Patrick Reed, who has gone 14 months without winning, shot 70 and was six behind.
Johnson and Koepka first played together in the third round of the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, a vague memory for Koepka. He just remembers Johnson having to hit one shot left-handed, and neither of them having much of a chance against Martin Kaymer that week.
They last played together in the opening two rounds at Firestone in the Bridgestone Invitational, though they are regulars in practice rounds at the majors. Koepka would like nothing better than for them to have a chance on the final nine Sunday.
''I have no problem breaking Dustin's heart. I can promise you that. I'm sure he'd say the same thing if he was sitting up here,'' Koepka said. ''We both have a lot of fun off the golf course, but when it comes to golf, I think we both want to kick each other's butts. There's no mercy out there. When we both show up, I think we're both expecting to win.''
October 27, 2017
The HSBC Champions is the first stop for Brooks Koepka on his four-week Asian adventure that will include two weeks on the beaches of Vietnam and Thailand and a title defense in Japan.
Splotches of mud on his shirt were evidence that it started with a wild ride at Sheshan International.
''Yeah, I had some fun in the water,'' he said.
Koepka played so beautifully on Thursday that the U.S. Open champion had reason to believe his 8-under 64 for a one-shot lead could have been much lower. He burned the edge of cup on a few birdie putts, missed one birdie attempt from 4 feet and turned a certain birdie into an aggravating bogey when he three-putted from 4 feet on No. 3.
But he got away with his worst swing of the day.
Wanting to play conservatively on the par-5 eighth, Koepka hit 3-iron off the tee and pulled it so badly that he disappeared down the banks of a winding stream along the entire left side of the fairway. Enough of the golf ball was showing from the shallow stream that he removed his shoes and tried to whack it out. He did well enough to advance it some 50 yards, leaving him 275 yards remaining over a pond that guards the front of the green.
Koepka hammered a 3-wood right at the flag, and the ball settled about 20 feet behind the cup. He made it for birdie and a wry smile.
''It was an interesting hole to say the least,'' Koepka said. ''I hit an awful 3-iron, hit it in the water and was lucky enough to at least hit it and advance it and hit a great 3-wood in there just past the pin. We were laughing. It was almost kind of destiny to make that putt.''
Along the way, he ticked off another goal for 2017 - the lead to himself after the opening round.
It wasn't much - just one shot over Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand and Gavin Green of Malaysia - but it was where he wanted to be.
''Any time you can get off to a good start and be close to the lead or have the lead, that's what you want,'' Koepka said.
Kiradech dressed in black out of respect to the five days of funeral ceremonies back home for King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died last October. This week ends a year of mourning, and Thais throughout the country were clad in back in honor of the late king.
Kiradech made 10 birdies, including seven in a row around the turn.
''I wore all black today as my own tribute,'' Kiradech said. ''It is a special day as the final day of official mourning. It would be a great honor if I could win and take this trophy back to Thailand and dedicate it to our late king.''
Patrick Reed and Haydn Porteous of South Africa were at 66, while the group at 67 included Matt Kuchar and Justin Rose.
''Drove it well. Found a lot of fairways,'' Kuchar said. ''If you're not playing in fairways, you're just hoping for pars.''
Koepka would have taken one on No. 8, and instead he did one better.
The rest of the round - except for that three-putt bogey from 4 feet - was crisp for Koepka considering he had not played since the Presidents Cup.
Starting on the 10th hole under abundant sunshine at Sheshan International, he capped off the back nine with a 7-iron into 20 feet on the 17th for birdie and then a massive drive on the par-5 18th that left him only a 6-iron to 20 feet, which he holed for an eagle.
He already was 6 under for the round and looked to go even lower with a shot into 4 feet at No. 3, only to walk away with bogey.
''I felt like I played really well,'' he said. ''I drove it pretty well and putted extremely well except for litlte hiccup.''
Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson were among those at 68. Johnson, who won this World Golf Championship in 2013, was moving closer to the lead until his wedge into No. 8 went just over the green, his chip ran 6 feet by and he took a bogey. It was on this hole two years ago that Johnson's shot hit the pin and caromed back into the water, which he says is the most irritated he's ever been on the golf course.
Defending champion Hideki Matsuyama opened with a 74.
Kiradech didn't feel his game was sharp except for the putter, which can atone for a lot. He mainly was happy with his start, and his ambitious goal to honor the king the best way he can by bringing home the trophy.
''It's not an easy situation because it's hard to explain how deeply our king was loved, and how sadly he is missed,'' Kiradech said. ''He will always hold a special place in my heart, but he loved sport and he would have been the first to stay the show must go on.''
|T5||ESP||Rafael Cabrera Bello||-8||18||68||70||70||72||280|
|T15||USA||Charles Howell III||-4||18||72||67||71||74||284|