Italy’s Francesco Molinari came though an epic battle with World Number 1 Lee Westwood to secure a one-stroke victory in the WGC-HSBC Champions tournament at Sheshan International Golf Club in China.
Molinari, who led from round one, fired a closing round of 67 to hold off the Englishman and bag his second European Tour title. The victory vaulted him into the top-15 on the Official World Golf Ranking.
“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 1 player in the world trailing you, it’s not easy.”
Molinari took a one shot lead over Westwood into the last round and he maintained his advantage throughout the course of the final day’s play. The pair matched each other blow for blow, Westwood never able to get on terms with Molinari.
The Englishman still trailed by one coming to the driveable par-4 16th and decided to take on the green. He just missed the surface, leaving a perilous pitch over a bunker to a green sloping away from him towards a water hazard. Molinari played the hole cautiously but it paid off. He hit an iron from the tee, then a wedge shot that ended just feet from the cup.
Westwood came up shy of the green with his delicate chip and had to get up-and-down to save par. When Molinari converted his birdie chance, the Italian’s lead was extended to two.
Both players made pars at the 17th so Molinari had a two-shot cushion coming to the difficult par-5 last. Westwood was still fighting though and, after two mighty blows, had a putt for an eagle.
Molinari found the green in regulation and was putting first. When his birdie effort ended adjacent to the hole, Westwood knew he had to hole for a three to force a playoff. He narrowly missed and the tournament went to Molinari.
“Sometimes somebody just plays a bit better and that’s what Francesco did,” said Westwood who retained his position at the top of the Official World Golf Ranking. “I thought he deserved to win. But it’s been a very good week and I’ve played well so I’m pleased.”
Scotland’s Richie Ramsay also enjoyed a great week to finish in a tie for third with Luke Donald of England. The result was sufficient to guarantee the Scot a place at the season-ending Dubai World Championship.
The top five was made up entirely of European players with Rory McIlroy firing a closing 67 to finish in fifth spot.
WGC – HSBC Champions
Sheshan International GC, Shanghai, China
Nov 4-7, purse €3,000,000, par 72
1 Francesco Molinari (Ita) 65 70 67 67 269 €860,153
2 Lee Westwood (Eng) 66 70 67 67 270 €483,836
T3 Luke Donald (Eng) 68 70 68 73 279 €267,006
T3 Richie Ramsay (Sco) 69 68 71 71 279 €267,006
5 Rory McIlroy (NIR) 71 71 71 67 280 €179,199
T6 Fredrik Andersson Hed (Swe) 69 71 71 70 281 €104,447
T6 Paul Casey (Eng) 73 71 67 70 281 €104,447
T6 Ernie Els (RSA) 72 65 71 73 281 €104,447
T6 Retief Goosen (RSA) 70 74 69 68 281 €104,447
T6 Richard Green (Aus) 70 74 69 68 281 €104,447
T6 Peter Hanson (Swe) 73 69 70 69 281 €104,447
T6 Tiger Woods (USA) 68 72 73 68 281 €104,447
Note: Player in bold signifies Titleist ball usage only