McIlroy celebrates first WGC-HSBC Champions win

Rory McIlroy had to do it the hard way winning in a play-off to capture his first WGC-HSBC Champions victory for his fourth taste of success this year and 27th pro career victory.

McIlroy defeated defending champion, Xander Schauffle with a birdie at the first extra hole of the Sheshan International on the outskirts of Shanghai with South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen, who was the third member of the final group, signing-off for a closing 69 to finish third at 17 under.

The World No. 2 went into the final round leading by one shot lead and held that as he stood on the par 5 18th tee, with playing partner and defending champion Schauffele his nearest challenger.

While McIlroy could only manage a par, Schauffele birdied the hole to join McIlroy at 19-under par and set-up the play-off but the American could not repeat last season’s play-off triumph over Tony Finau.

McIlroy found the fairway with a booming drive but his American rival’s tee shot ran through the fairway and into deep rough, a few feet shy of a fairway bunker. It forced Schauffele to forget going for the green and play a lay-up shot.

Rory McIlroy Rory McIlroy (Credit: PGA Tour)

It’s all McIlroy needed as he cleared the water guarding the green and then calmly two-putted for his winning birdie. There was an elated right arm fist pump from McIlroy after finally winning the event for the first occasion.

“There’s a lot of stuff that people don’t see behind the scenes just in terms of hard work and putting the hours in at home,” he said. “But all of that, it’s not work, really. It’s playing golf for a living. I’d be in trouble if I did have to work for a living.”

“To practise hard and to do all the right things and to see it pay off like this and get wins like this makes it all worthwhile.”

“I have one more event left in Dubai. I want to finish the season off as well as I can. I really wanted to get another win before the end of the year and now that I’ve done that, it would be nice to get two wins.”

In some fairness to Schauffele the American had been struggling with illness for much of the week and while pleased with his effort, he was also full of praise for McIlroy.

“He’s an elite player,” he said. “When he’s on, I’d say he’s arguably the best player in the world. He made me play better. I know what I need to do to become a better player.”

“My time will come. I’m looking forward to getting healthy, not coughing, sleeping. More important things than trying to win a golf tournament.”

It his fourth success of 2019 after earlier PGA Tour season wins at the Players Championship, RBC Canadian Open and the Tour Championship and perhaps is enough to silence those that were critical of his Player Of The Year win over Brooks Koepka.

McIlroy joins Dustin Johnson and Tiger Woods as the only players to have won three of the four World Golf Championships events, following his victories at the WGC – Bridgestone Invitational in 2014 and the WGC – Dell Match-Play the following season.

It is also McIlroy’s 14th European Tour victory, and his first ‘regular’ event since capturing the 2016 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. The victory also matches Darren Clarke’s record as the equal-winningest Ulster golfer.

Adam Scott closed with a 67 to take the Australian honours this week in China in equal 11th. Scott played superbly with only a third round 3-over 75 marring what could have been an otherwise very close affair with McIlroy.

Scott Hend clawed his way back from an opening round of 75 to claim 28th place while Jake McLeod (T57), Camerom Smith (T60), Matt Millar (T67) and Daniel Nisbet (77th) all finished well back in the star-studded field.