Shanghai, China: 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 African 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. It was his 18th PGA Tour win.
“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.”
McIlroy said: “I played 73 holes this week with Xander, and I have to give credit to him. He’s battled the flu all week and he’s played unbelievably well considering how he’s been feeling.”