SHANGHAI — It only took four holes over two days for Dustin Johnson to lose a six-shot lead in the HSBC Champions. All that mattered was the high-powered kick down the stretch Sunday at Sheshan International that brought him the biggest win of his career.
In what felt like the end of a long year and beginning of a new season, Johnson broke loose from a three-way challenge on the back nine by playing a five-hole stretch in 5-under par. He closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-shot win over Ian Poulter to capture his first World Golf Championship title.
“It’s the biggest win I’ve had in my career so far,” he said. “Those guys put a lot of pressure on me. I’m really proud of the way I handled myself.”
This one required a little bit of everything.
One shot behind with six holes to play, he smashed his drive over the corner of a dogleg on the 13th hole that left him a short wedge into 5 feet for birdie to catch Poulter. Right when it looked as though he would fall behind again, Johnson holed a 20-foot birdie putt on the next hole.
It was a pitch-in for eagle that effectively won the tournament.
With a one-shot lead playing the par-4 16th, Johnson hit a 3-iron about 25 yards short of the green with a front pin. The pitch was perfect, rolling into the cup like it was a putt. Johnson raised his left hand and pumped his right fist. And when he waved to acknowledge the Chinese fans, they instinctively waved back, as if Johnson were the star attraction in a parade.
That he was, and there were plenty of stars.
For most of the back nine, the top seven players on the leaderboards consisted of Johnson and half of Europe’s winning Ryder Cup team from Medinah.