Dustin Johnson wins in Shanghai

Dustin Johnson (Courtesy: Zimbio.com)

Dustin Johnson (Courtesy: Zimbio.com)

Dustin Johnson was able to close out the 54-hole lead in Shanghai with a final round 66, winning the WGC-HSBC Champions by three shots over Ian Poulter at Sheshan Golf Club.

What Happened

It wasn’t the best of starts for Johnson, who entered the day with a three shot lead over Poulter, but opened with a bogey on the first, and after three birdies on the first five holes, Poulter was alone in first place. Graeme McDowell was the third member of the final group, and got into a tie for the lead as well on the front nine, but Johnson was able to come back with birdies on the 8th and 9th. Poulter and McDowell slowed slightly on the back nine, while Johnson got hot, playing the 13th through 17th in five under par, basically sealing the tournament with a chip-in eagle on the drivable par-4 16th.

11.02.13 dj chip in sheshan

Johnson would finish with another birdie on the 17th, and ended with a par on the closing hole to win by three shots over Poulter at 24-under par.

Final Leaderboard

  • 1. Dustin Johnson -24
  • 2. Ian Poulter -21
  • 3. Graeme McDowell -20
  • 4. Sergio Garcia -18
  • 5. Justin Rose -16

What The Win Means For Johnson

Nobody has ever doubted Johnson’s ability on the golf course. He hits the ball a ton and his short game is pretty smooth, but despite the fact that this is his ninth win as a professional at just 29 years old, there’s some thought that he’s underachieved to this point in his career. Yes, we remember the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble where he blew a lead early, and the rules “violation” at the 2010 PGA that allowed Martin Kaymer to win his first major, denying Johnson that same honour, but the fact is that there are very few players who have ever had this much success at this age on the PGA Tour. He had a rough 2013 season after winning the opening event at Kapalua, leading many in the golf media to wonder what was wrong with him, but to be honest, this is who Dustin Johnson is: A wildly inconsistent player who when he’s on, is probably the most dangerous man in the field that week. Think early Phil Mickelson, Davis Love, or even John Daly.

In the short term for Johnson, he’ll take away $1.4 million for winning here, and if he so chooses, he can take up European Tour membership because of this win until 2016. That won’t happen, but hey, it’s a nice thing to fall back on should something happen here in North America. He’ll also move into 12th place in the Official World Golf Rankings, and likely put himself in a much better position to play on Tom Watson’s Ryder Cup team. After the sting of not playing well enough to get in on merit or via captain’s selection at the Presidents Cup, I’m sure Johnson desperately wants to represent the United States at Gleneagles in September.

Tiger’s Non-Appearance

At this point, we should be used to the fact that Tiger Woods can be a story even when he doesn’t play in an event, but in case we forgot, this week was a good reminder. Tiger was in China this week for his one-on-one with Rory McIlroy, but opted to skip this event afterwards and play next week in Turkey instead. It’s worth noting that Tiger will receive his appearance fee for going to Turkey, but would not have picked it up here. Giles Morgan, global head of sponsorship and events for HSBC, wasn’t overly thrilled with the situation as he told Doug Ferguson of the AP:

“I’m not here to knock Tiger at all, because I feel that he’s been absolutely instrumental in the growth. But we’ve reached a point where it’s not about individuals. It’s about growing the game of golf globally. I really hope that Tiger will want to come back in following years,” he said. “China is a vast country, so him playing a meaningless match yesterday doesn’t really affect us. But yeah, we’re disappointed.”

I understand that he’s upset that Tiger has decided not to show up this week, but realistically, he can’t play every week, and if you’re going to offer someone a ton of money to show up and play, like he’s getting next week, you have to understand the situation. Look, I’m all for the best possible fields here, but it’s not like this tournament struggled for marquee names. Morgan again:

“What I can’t do is pay him,” Morgan said. “And I feel enormously strong about that. This is a World Golf Championship. This is the flagship event of Asia. This is going to be the beacon to carry the game into this continent for many years to come. We could do the wrong thing by golf and drop the prize money right down and just pay one or two players huge fees. From a publicity standpoint, that would give us a certain amount of kudos because we’d get the top player in the world. And I’m absolutely not going down that route.”

You may not like it, but that’s the way the game has gone at this point. Unless it’s a major championship, Tiger isn’t skipping out on an appearance fee, and I can’t say I blame him. Whether we like it or not, golf has become a year-round sport, with no actual off-season, so there are going to be times when the players just say no to an event.

Thanks to Geoff Shackelford for the link.

Other Notes

  • No cut with the short field again this week. Other notable finishes: Rory McIlroy and Graham DeLaet (T6), Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer (T8), Ernie Els, Keegan Bradley and Boo Weekley (T11), Phil Mickelson (14th), Louis Oosthuizen (T15), Jordan Spieth (17th), Matteo Manassero (T21), Nick Watney, Luke Donald and Henrik Stenson (T31), Jason Dufner (T34), Rickie Fowler, Lee Westwood, Brandt Snedeker and Peter Uihlein (T55).
  • There were points this week when Ian Poulter looked unstoppable, very much like what we saw at Medinah last year at the Ryder Cup. It doesn’t come along very often with him, but when it does, he’s incredible to watch.
  • I said this on Twitter late last night while watching the coverage, but this is another really positive step for Rory. While I don’t profess to being overly knowledgeable about the golf swing, Rory’s just looks so much better right now than it did a few months ago. Everything seems to be in rhythm, and like I’ve said for months, he’s simply too good to not bounce back. Expecting big things over the next few months.
  • On the opposite side of things, a couple of Rory’s Ryder Cup teammates don’t look so hot right now. Lee Westwood is all over the place, and Luke Donald has been struggling for pretty much the entire 2013 calendar. One prominent European golf writer even suggested that Donald wouldn’t be a part of the 2014 Ryder Cup side, which would be a shock to just about everyone who follows the game seriously. For his part, Donald says he seems to be getting close again:

Of course, all golfers say that when they’re struggling, so who knows if we can actually believe him at this point.

  • You think DJ has struggled this year? That T8 finish for Bubba was his third of the 2013 calendar year, and first since the Travelers back in June.
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