Bubba’s bunker bonanza

Bubba Watson defeated Tim Clark on the first play-off hole to win the WGC-HSBC Champions yesterday after an extraordinary finish to the event in Shanghai.

Watson was two shots clear with three holes to play at Sheshan International only to bogey the 16th and run up a double bogey on the 17th after failing to escape a greenside bunker at the first attempt.

That dropped the Masters champion one shot behind playing partners Clark and Rickie Fowler, as well as the final group of Graeme McDowell, Hiroshi Iwata and Martin Kaymer.

Clark looked in pole position when he hit his third shot to the par-five 18th to four feet and saw Fowler find the water and Watson a greenside bunker. However, Watson then amazingly holed his bunker shot for an eagle and Clark’s birdie was only good enough to leave the pair tied on 11 under, with the final group needing to birdie the last to join the play-off.

Kaymer’s chances disappeared when his approach flew over the green into the water, while McDowell and Iwata missed from 18 and 12 feet respectively.

Clark and Watson returned to the 18th for the play-off and Watson found the same greenside bunker with his second shot after Clarke had hit his third to around 20 feet.

Watson was unable to repeat his heroics from the sand but after Clark had left his birdie attempt short, the left-hander holed his birdie putt to seal victory.

“For me this is the big one,” Watson said after his third win in 2014. “It’s very big because I always wanted to win outside the US. It’s my seventh win, gets me closer to 10 wins which has always been my goal. It’s a World Golf Championship, so when you add it all up it means a lot.”

Speaking about the 72nd hole, the 36-year-old added: “It was such a tough bunker shot you are not really thinking about making it, but I told my caddie it’s been a wild day, a wild couple of holes, but if we can make this it changes everything and it went in like a putt. Clark was like ‘Why would you do that?!’

McDowell rightfully predicted after day one that between 10 under and 12-under par would capture the WGC event. However he saw his chance of a first title end in missing a birdie putt to join the eventual play-off and posting a final day 73 to share third place on 10-under par.

“To be brutally honest, I didn’t have my A Game all week,” said McDowell. “And to be in a situation I was in, leading all week, going into the last day but I didn’t play well enough simple as that.”

McDowell’s consolation was a €306,444 that’s seen him jump seven spots to ninth in the Race to Dubai and the likelihood of ending a third straight season inside the top-10.

In contrast, Shane Lowry’s 34th place Shanghai result has seen him drop a spot to 15th on the money list after a final round 68 for a one over par tally.

Lowry also needed to finish top-10 in Shangai to move up just one place and the virtual assurance of a first Masters invitation.

He will tee up in this week’s Turkish Airlines Open probably now needing a top-five finish in Belek to get himself in the top-50 before the Carton House pro heads to the European Tour’s season-ending DP World Championship.

And if Lowry is not into the top-50 at the end of the Dubai event he also has another stab in the Nedbank Challenge a fortnight later.

“It was a great start to the week shooting nine birdies to win the morning Pro-Am on Wednesday but then all of a sudden I played poorly on Thursday and lost of a bit of confidence,” he said.

“But if there was a scorecard wrecker this week it was the eighth hole as I played that in five over, including taking a doubt today.

“So I was quite frustrated out there all week and going through those end of season blues. This golf course can frustrate you very quickly.

“Then after taking the double on eight I was walking down the ninth fairway thinking of taking an Emirates flight home to Dublin.

“But there’s still a lot of play for as I’ve got three events this year and I really need to rest up the next couple of days ahead of teeing-up in Turkey.”


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