WGC-HSBC Champions report: Rory McIlroy triumphs in Shanghai

Another trophy for Rory McIlroy's collection
Another trophy for Rory McIlroy's collection

Rory McIlroy beat Xander Schauffele in a play-off to win the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai.

Leaderboard

-15 McIlroy *, Schauffele

* denotes won play-off

-17 Oosthuizen

-15 Schwab, Perez, Ancer

Day four report

Rory McIlroy edged out Xander Schauffele in a play-off to win the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai.

The world number two won at the first extra hole at the Sheshan International Golf Club after the pair both finished on 19 under.

Schauffele, the defending champion, had birdied the 18th to take the event into a play-off but he could only score par as the pair played it again in sudden death.

McIlroy, who had to lay up after flirting with water on his first playing of the 18th, duly sank a birdie putt to claim his 27th career title.

It was also McIlroy's third win in a World Golf Championships event, his fourth win of 2019 and the first in his defence of the FedEX Cup title. It lifted him to the top of the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings and fifth in the European Tour's Race to Dubai rankings.

McIlroy told Sky Sports: "It's a tough closing stretch even though there are holes you think you should birdie. There are dangers waiting around every corner. I played conservatively when I needed to and thankfully it paid off."

McIlroy shot four birdies in his closing 68 while fast-finishing Schauffele recorded seven birdies, five of which were on the front nine, in a 66, although a bogey at the sixth was to prove costly.

South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen finished third on 17 under after a 69, two shots ahead of Victor Perez, Matthias Schwab and Abraham Ancer. Britain's Matt Fitzpatrick finished seventh on 14 under.

McIlroy now hopes to round off 2019 with success on the European circuit's season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai later this month.

The Northern Irishman said: "I got off to a good start in the FedEx Cup last year and being up there from the start is huge.

"I think this win gets me to number one in the FedEx Cup and that's nice going into the break. I'm going to take two months off after I play in Dubai in a couple of weeks' time.

"I am looking forward to that break but I have still got one tournament left this year at a place where I've had some success. I want to finish the year on a high note."

Day three report

Rory McIlroy claimed the outright lead at the WGC-HSBC Champions in China with a third successive five-under round of 67.

McIlroy closed day two one shot behind Matthew Fitzpatrick but capitalised as the Englishman slipped from the top of the leaderboard on Saturday, finishing with a birdie to head into the final round with a one-stroke advantage over Louis Oosthuizen, who shot 65.

For the second day running McIlroy hit the turn in 33, but he went bogey-free for the first time this week and added two birdies on the back nine.

Oosthuizen opened his round with five birdies in pursuit of a maiden World Golf Championships title, while Fitzpatrick dropped to third, two shots off McIlroy alongside Xander Schauffele of the United States.

England's Paul Waring is a shot further back in fifth.

Despite holding the lead, McIlroy saw plenty of room for improvement in his round.

"I feel like I weathered a mini-storm at the start," he said. "After that, the round started to get going and I hit some good shots and held some good putts.

"But I gave myself plenty of chances - a lot of chances from between 15 and 20 feet, so you're not expecting to hole all of them - but I hit a lot of good putts today that didn't go in.

"I stayed patient, I birdied the holes that I needed to birdie and I built a very gradual round. No bogeys, which was nice, but just kept plugging away trying to give myself chances.

"If I go out tomorrow and replicate what I've done the first three days, I think I'll be pretty hard to beat."

Day two report

Rory McIlroy produced a grandstand finish to get within one of Matt Fitzpatrick's lead after two rounds of the WGC-HSBC Champions.

Having teed off at the par-five 18th hole three shots behind the leader, who had just signed off with a birdie, McIlroy fired his approach to within three feet for the simplest of eagles and a 10-under-par halfway total.

Fitzpatrick also finished with a flourish, four birdies over the closing seven in a flawless 67 enough for the lead. He's yet to make a bogey since the very first hole of the tournament despite having finished 75th of 76 in Japan last week.

"The back nine, I putted fantastic, as good as I've putted all year," he said. "The rough is tough. The greens are firm, they are slopy as well. Today was definitely difficult."

The Englishman, looking for his sixth European Tour win at the age of 25, will tee off in the final three-ball on Saturday along with McIlroy and defending champion Xander Schauffele, part of a group tied for third on nine-under.

"Delighted with the first two rounds," confirmed McIlroy. "To put myself right in contention going into the weekend is something that I wanted to do.

"It's something that I haven't done a lot of over the last few weeks. I've sort of had bad starts and then clawed my way back into a good position at the end but to be right in the tournament after two days, I'm excited."

Despite being under the weather this week, Schauffele toughed things out again for a round of 69 and shares third with Sungjae Im and Adam Scott, likely to line up opposite the American in next month's Presidents Cup.

Scott's place is already assured, and 21-year-old Im seems certain to be selected as one of four wildcards having been named rookie of the year on the PGA Tour and contended virtually every week since.

Behind the front five lie Victor Perez and Hao-tong Li, the latter having relinquished his early lead with a level-par 72, with South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen alone in eight following a round of 69.

Matthias Schwab and Paul Waring round out the top 10, the latter having carded a best-of-the-day 65 as he, like McIlroy, signed off with an eagle at the 18th.

For those further back, the idea of reeling in a world-class quintet of leaders, led in theory by Fitzpatrick but in feeling by McIlroy, may already seem unrealistic. On a course made for McIlroy which Fitzpatrick too professes to love, and with three of the game's elite in pursuit, the identity of the champion can already be narrowed down.

Day one report

The leaderboard for the WGC-HSBC Champions has a decidedly youthful look to it, with local favourite Hao-tong Li out in front after the opening round.

Li, 24, carded seven birdies and an eagle in an excellent start to the biggest event held in his native China, making just one bogey at the par-four first hole.

Starting at the 10th, Li birdied his first two holes before reaching five-under at the turn, and when the mistake came he responded in style with an eagle at the straightforward second.

A final birdie at the eighth meant he'd taken care of all four par-fives to reach eight-under and a one-shot lead over Victor Perez, the improving Frenchman who won the Dunhill Links last month.

Defending champion Xander Schauffele mixed nine birdies with three bogeys to finish on six-under along with Sunjae Im, Matt Fitzpatrick and Adam Scott, the latter the only player inside the top six who is not in his twenties.

And there's further young blood on five-under, where Rory McIlroy is the old man of the party alongside Corey Conners and Matthias Schwab.

It was a slow start for McIlroy in an event which has frustrated him over the years, with five top-six finishes in seven but as yet no silverware.

With eyes fixed on Brooks Koepka's spot atop the world rankings, McIlroy remained patient following bogeys at the 10th, 13th and 18th holes in a level-par outward nine, picking up five shots in six from the second to shoot 67.

That ensures he's favourite at a general 7/2 after the first round - an unfamiliar position of late.

"There was no wind, so it was a day to take advantage of the conditions," said the world number two. "It looks like the conditions are going to stay that way for the next few days, but it's nice, the last few tournaments I've played, I've had a bad opening round and then been trying to play catch up.

"At least now, I'm right in the thick of things from the start, which is a better place to be."

Li, meanwhile, was eager to downplay expectations having already defied his own following a run of poor form since returning to the European Tour this autumn.

"Today is a pretty good start and good beginning," he said. "Obviously it would be a great joy for Chinese golfers and Chinese golf fans to have a Chinese player winning a WGC-HSBC Champions here in China but for the next three days, anything could happen.

"So I don't want to think too much about it. I just want to focus and concentrate on the upcoming three days because anything can happen. I just wanted to do a good job to keep this momentum going for the next three days."

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