Rory McIlroy earned his fourth victory of 2019 at the WGC HSBC Champions with a birdie on the first playoff hole against Xander Schauffele.
Rory McIlroy continued his winning form from last year’s PGA Tour season at Sheshan International on Sunday with victory on the first playoff hole against Xander Schauffele.
Schauffele had tied the defending FedEx Cup Champion on 19-under-par with a 72nd hole birdie, but it was McIlroy who would claim the third WGC title of his career with a two-putt for birdie on the replay of 18.
McIlroy began the final round with a one shot lead but quickly found himself behind as Louis Oosthuizen’s birdied his opening two holes to move ahead.
The World No.2 picked up his first birdie at the fifth, and was matched by defending champion Schauffele to make it a three-way tie at the top.
Oosthuizen regained the lead with another birdie at the eighth to get to 17-under before dropping his first shot of the day a hole later, and it was McIlroy who would hold the lead heading in to the back nine: Schauffele recovered from a dropped shot at the sixth with three birdies in a row to get to -17, while McIlroy made back-to-back birdies at both eight and nine to move to 18-under-par.
A further dropped shot from Oosthuizen on the 11th put him too far back to challenge despite gains at the 14th and 16th holes, and McIlroy extended his lead to two strokes with his fourth birdie of the day at 14.
Schauffele halved that gap at the next, and managed a final-hole birdie at the par-five 18th to force McIlroy in to sudden death.
In the playoff, McIlroy found the middle of the fairway, and hit a brilliant approach to the left side of the green before two-putting for his winning birdie.
McIlroy was quick to credit his consistency in 2019 for his victory, having now recorded four wins and 14 further top 10s worldwide.
“The four wins this year have been wonderful,” he said. “THE PLAYERS Championship, Canadian Open, THE TOUR Championship to win the FedExCup, big events. But more than that, I think it is the consistency that I’m bringing week-in, week-out. I’m able to — even if I don’t have my best stuff, at least give myself a chance. Even last week in Japan, finding something after a couple of days and go on to produce a high finish.
“So everything, I think maybe more so than say when I first came out on Tour, I try 100 per cent over every shot, I think because I realise I don’t have as much time left as I used to when I was 20. Even if I’m having a bad day, I’m trying over every single shot. My concentration is better and my mental capacity on the golf course is much better than it ever has been, and I think that’s a big key to why I’m able to play consistently week-in, week-out.”
His victory means he now sits fifth in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, which culminates with the DP World Tour Championship in three weeks time. It’s an event McIlroy has won twice, and another victory could see him crowned Race to Dubai champion for the fourth time.
“I have one more event left in Dubai,” McIlroy said of what’s next for him. “I want to finish the season off as well as I can. I’m playing well. I don’t think my game is going to go anywhere over the next two weeks, so hopefully I can turn up in Dubai and play well on a golf course that I’ve had success on and really finish the year off hopefully the way that I’ve played all year, which is consistently good golf.
“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.”