Rory McIlroy overcame Xander Schauffele in a play-off to win his third World Golf Championships title at the WGC-HSBC Champions.
The Northern Irishman entered the final day at Sheshan International Golf Club with a one shot lead and he still held that as he stood on the 18th tee, with playing partner and defending champion Schauffele his nearest challenger.
A closing birdie from Schauffele saw him join McIlroy at 19 under and take it to extra holes but the American could not repeat last season’s play-off triumph over Tony Finau.
McIlroy hit a wonderful drive and found the green in two to set up a birdie which Schauffele could not match after finding a nasty lie off the tee and being forced to lay up on the first trip back up the 18th.
South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen was the third member of the final group and he finished third at 17 under.
The win for McIlroy is his fourth worldwide this season and sees him join only Dustin Johnson and Tiger Woods as players to have won three of the four World Golf Championships events, following his victories at the Invitational in 2014 and the Match Play the following season.
A 14th European Tour victory – and first since 2016 – also sees him equal Darren Clarke’s record for Northern Ireland.
‘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.’
Schauffele has been struggling with illness for much of the week and was proud of his performance after playing all four days alongside a player he thinks may be the world’s best.
‘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.’
Overnight leader McIlroy soon had company at the top as Oosthuizen holed a 15 footer on the first and the 2010 Open Champion had the lead as he got up and down from just over the back of the second.
McIlroy joined him at the top of the leaderboard as he spun an approach in tight at the fifth while the third member of the final group was having more of a roller coaster.
Schauffele birdied the second after hitting the green in two and also picked up a shot on the fifth but gave it straight back on the next.
The 26-year-old hit a poor second on the seventh after a big drive but holed a long putt for a birdie to get back within one before all three of the final group laid up on the eighth and put their approaches close for birdies.
Schauffele holed from 18 feet on the ninth to briefly join the lead but McIlroy had put his approach to six feet and he led alone as Oosthuizen surrendered a bogey after getting in trouble down the right off the tee.
McIlroy led by two as he hit the pin with a fast chip from a nasty lie on the 14th, with Oosthuizen also making a gain on the par five after a bogey on the 11th.
Schauffele put an approach to five feet at the next to trim the lead to one and Oosthuizen hit a stunning approach to set up a birdie on the 16th as it remained all to play for with two holes remaining.
McIlroy flirted with the water off the tee on the last and had to lay up, leaving the door open for Schauffele’s two putt birdie on the par five to set up the play-off.
Oosthuizen finished par-par for a 69 that left him two shots clear of Mexico’s Abraham Ancer, Frenchman Victor Perez and Austrian Matthias Schwab.
Perez and Schwab both fired closing rounds of 66 in impressive World Golf Championships debuts, while Ancer signed for a 67.
Matthew Fitzpatrick was at 14 under, two shots clear of Jason Kokrak, Patrick Reed and Paul Waring.
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