Ian Poulter joked about taking two years off after his Ryder Cup heroics. Now he is glad he didn’t. Five weeks on from his unbeaten performance in the victory over the Americans, the 36-year-old yesterday joined Darren Clarke as the only Europeans to win two World Golf Championship titles.
Poulter trailed by nine shots halfway through the HSBC Champions at Mission Hills in China, but two closing rounds of 65 gave him a two-stroke triumph over Open champion Ernie Els and Americans Phil Mickelson, Jason Dufner and Scott Piercy.
“It’s so nice to get my hands on another trophy,” said Poulter, whose last individual success was the Australian Masters last December. “I’ve been in good form for a while and knew if I did the right things and stayed patient I would be right there. It’s been an amazing six weeks.”
What he could not have expected, however, was for both overnight leaders Lee Westwood and Louis Oosthuizen to finish so poorly. After a third-round 61 had brought him level, Westwood went three clear early on but double-bogeyed the short fifth and had three back nine bogeys. That makes it a total of 100 majors and world championships in his career and the 39-year-old has yet to win one.
Oosthuizen, five clear of the field after 36 holes, only managed a level par 72 on the low-scoring lay-out and he and Westwood dropped back into a tie for sixth place.
World No 1 Rory McIlroy was quickly on with congratulations to his Ryder Cup team-mate, who earned over £743,000 for his week’s work “Ballsy up and down at the last,” said the Northern Irishman on Twitter, who preferred to watch his girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki play tennis in Bulgaria. “Wouldn’t expect anything less!”
Poulter added: “It still doesn’t give you the same kind of buzz you get playing the Ryder Cup. There’s just not quite as much adrenaline in the body.
“I definitely think it is a part continuation of the Ryder Cup and I’m obviously riding that wave as much as I possibly can. After two days I felt I was probably too far back with the way Louis was playing, but anything is possible on this course once you get the putter warm and it is hard to close out tournaments sometimes.”
With Peter Hanson and Justin Rose only sharing 24th place, McIlroy holds a massive lead of more than £600,000 in the European Tour money list race with only three weeks left – and he is playing all of them.
Mickelson is also at next week’s Singapore Open and he said: “I’ll see if I can improve one spot there. It was good for me to come back after not playing since the Ryder Cup and pick up where I left off.”
After being five-under for the day with five to play, Paul Lawrie was disappointed to sign off with a level-par 72 to tie for 36th on four-under, eight better than fellow Aberdonian Richie Ramsay (71).
“I’d played lovely but then completely lost the plot,” said Lawrie. “I played some really good golf this weekend but shot level par – criminal.”