Masters champion Bubba Watson roared back to beat Tim Clark in a play-off after seemingly blowing his chances down the back nine of the WGC-HSBC Champions on a super Sunday in Shanghai.
The Masters champion punched the air after holing an outrageous 20-yard bunker shot for eagle at the 18th to get into a play-off with South Africa’s Clark at 11-under.
The left-hander then rolled in a lightning quick 20-foot putt down the hill on the same hole for the winning birdie, sparking wild celebrations for his first World Golf Championships event win and his first victory of any kind outside of the US.
Leading at 12-under par with three holes to play, Watson had seemingly imploded with a bogey followed by a double-bogey at the 16th and 17th to fall to 9-under.
At that point five players were a shot ahead of him, until his magic from the sand saw him finish 11-under for the tournament.
Clark, playing alongside Watson, holed out for birdie from six feet at 18 to also get to 11-under as Rickie Fowler’s chance disappeared into the greenside water.
The final group of overnight leader Graeme McDowell, Martin Kaymer and Japan’s Hiroshi Iwata then all failed to get the birdie they needed to join the extra-holes shootout.
Watson had started the day two shots behind long-time leader McDowell at 9-under and got off to a shaky start with a bogey five at the first.
He repaired the damage with two birdies in the next three holes but dropped another at the fifth.
McDowell’s putter had been hot all week but his touch deserted him early on Sunday with missed birdie chances at the second and third holes.
It never came back for the Northern Irishman as he finished with a 1-over 73, his worst round of the week for a share of third place.
“The putter that was so hot early in the week kind of cooled off this weekend,” McDowell told AFP. “Of course I would have loved to have been going out in that play-off. Disappointed, but I’ll look back generally as a solid week.”
Watson turned up the heat in the front nine with a hat-trick of birdies from the sixth to lead at the turn by one from McDowell and Kaymer.
Watson put his drive into the water at 13 and dropped a shot to slip back alongside McDowell, one ahead now of Kaymer who dropped a shot at the 11th after finding sand twice.
Fowler joined the German on 10-under moments later but both then dropped shots on their next holes to fall back.
Watson birdied the par-five 14th from 15 feet to put himself alone in front. Iwata, who was hanging on grimly after a 2-over par outward half, finally nailed his first birdie at the 11th and clawed his way back into contention with a fine back nine before Watson’s stunning finish.
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