Rose takes aim on second – and wins
The unthinkable happened over the last round of the WGC-HSBC Champions at Sheshan. Justin Rose won the WGC-HSBC Champions at Sheshan in spite of the fact that Dustin Johnson, the World No 1, had started the day eight shots ahead of him and six clear of the field.
“It was the kind of day you hope for,” said Rose, who won by two from the trio of Johnson, Henrik Stenson and Brooks Koepka. “It was the perfect kind of day to make a comeback – and an easy day to make mistakes if, like Dustin, you were leading.” It was also a day when the plan Rose has in his head for chasing someone with a big lead came in handy. Whenever that applies, he always aims, “to win the other tournament.”
Rose, would you believe, was still six behind with nine holes to go. However, after telling himself that he was going to play match-play against the course over the homeward half, he romped home in 31 for this comeback of comebacks. “Unbelievable!” is what he said – and it was. He now has a US Open title to his name, an Olympic Gold and two WGCs.
Johnson had made as many as 22 birdies over the first three days. Today, on the other hand, the most dashing man in golf had none in his trouble-strewn 77.
There was not a soul at Sheshan who had expected him to do anything other than run away with the title at the start of the day. He was playing patient, sensible golf and he knew how to win round here, having done as much in 2013. Not only that, but WGC events seemed to have been made for him; he already had five in the bag when he arrived at Sheshan last week.
Even when he dropped a shot at each of the first two holes, none among his fans was overly concerned and neither was he. Furthermore, every time Brooks Koepka and Rose started to put a bit of early pressure on him, they backed off with a few errant putts. Everything, it seemed, was going to work out in the end.
Yet far from things taking a turn for the better after his outward 38, they got worse. He was still two ahead after missing a par putt at the 12th, while he did well to salvage a par at the 14th after hacking across the green from the edge of a water hazard. But his luck ran out when he made bunkered bogeys at each of the next two holes.
Rose had been creeping up on him with birdies at the 11th, 13th and 14th. He went one ahead with a birdie at the 16th – and doubled that little lead when he knocked his five iron to two feet at the short 17th. A Rose par at the 18th was all that was required as the leading group of Johnson, Stenson and Koepka added to their mistakes rather than getting their acts together.
While that trio was staggering home, Rose was busy with broadcasts and calls from his wife, Kate, who was watching the extraordinary goings-on back home in the Bahamas with the couple’s two young children. (It was three a.m. in that part of the world.)
At the first possible opportunity, Dustin came up to congratulate him: ”Nice play, very well done.” You expected no less from the World No. 1.
Asked to sum up his day of disasters, Johnson came up with a rueful, “It was simple. I just could never get anything going and I didn’t hole any putts.”