From 63 to 77, Dustin Johnson’s new bug

Quiet Justin Rose, back in the winners’ circle

Dustin Johnson fired a stunning 63 on day two at Sheshan International Golf Club to take a one-shot lead into the weekend at the HSBC Champions. The world #1 was looking to become the first player to win three of the four World Golf Championships in a single season after claiming the WGC-Mexico Championship and WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. He was steady leading the pack with six shots over Brooks Koepka, seven over Henrik Stenson. At the Shanghai Sheshan International Golf Club, for the 4th round of the 13th HSBC Champions, it was “mission impossible” to find a spectator, an agent, a volunteer, an editor, a TV commentator doubting of Dustin Johnson’s already heralded win, the world No 1 playing so well.
But we all know that a game of golf is never won or lost till the very last hole and the very last putt. The winning Olympic Gold Medalist Justin Rose started the fourth round eight strokes off Dustin Johnson’s 54-hole lead, playing an average 36 on the front nine with three birdies and three bogeys, at no time a danger for DJ. After the ones scored on the 8th and 9th holes, Rose even trailed Johnson by six shots with just nine holes remaining. He then scored an amazing 31 on these for the low round of the day to match the third-best comeback victory in PGA Tour history, helped by Johnson’s horrid 5-over-par 77 to go with his glorious second round 63, the new course record.

This unexpected 31 gave Justin Rose a two-stroke victory over Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Henrik Stenson. This eight-stroke come-from-behind victory sets a personal best for Rose, a tournament best and a World Golf Championships record. It’s Rose’s eighth victory on the PGA Tour and first since winning the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in 2015. Since the English player had five runner-up finishes on the PGA Tour including his memorable second-place finish to Sergio Garcia at the Masters earlier this year.

This HSBC Champions is the second World Golf Championships win for Rose (2012)) and his previous best finish was a fifth place in 2013 in five appearances. The win gives Rose 550 FedEx Cup points in his first start of the 2017-18 season. He has qualified for the season ending Tour Championship eight times since the FedEx Cup launched in 2007, with his best finish coming in 2011.

Henrik Stenson                                  Dustin Johnson                              Brooks Koepka

Now what’s the Dustin Johnson story? He was looking to extend his streak of winning at least one event in each season since his first full PGA Tour season in 2007. He was also looking to become the first player to win three World Golf Championships tournaments in a calendar year and the second player after Phil Mickelson to win two HSBC Champions titles. But he bogeyed the first two holes of the final round and went without a birdie or better during a PGA Tour round for the 7th time in his career as part of his 5-over-par 77 and the first since the opening of the 2017 Memorial Tournament.

Also strong contenders Brooks Koepka and Henrik Stenson didn’t find the solutions to become a real danger on the last round. Koepka had an up-and-down final round that included five birdies and a double bogey for a weak 71 to finish in a three-way tie for second with Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson. The finish marks Koepka’s fifth career runner-up finish on the PGA Tour. Stenson shot a 2-under 70 to finish T2 for the second successive year. The world # 9 shot four birdies but two bogeys to finish two shots behind Justin Rose, the same player whom he finished second in Rio de Janeiro last year when golf made a distinctive return to the Olympics after a 4th round now in Golf’s History book. PGAT/pph