JUST A month after failing to win a point at the Ryder Cup – and being left on the sidelines for three of the five sessions – Peter Hanson had the sweetest win of his career yesterday.
The 35-year-old Swede just held off world No 1 Rory McIlroy to take the BMW Masters title in Shanghai against a field that also included nine more of his European team-mates from Medinah.
With Luke Donald coming third and Ian Poulter fourth, it was a week dominated by members of Jose Maria Olazabal’s side, but Hanson was the one to come out on top.
By claiming a first prize of over £720,000, he has also given himself a chance to deny McIlroy the same European and PGA Tour money list double achieved by Donald last season.
With four more weeks to go, he leaps from seventh to second in the standings, and although the Northern Irishman’s runner-up finish means he still has a lead of more than £650,000, the winner’s cheque is more than that in this week’s World Championship event at Mission Hills in Shenzhen – and McIlroy is not playing.
“I’m going to try to keep this form going,” Hanson said after a closing bogey gave him a one-stroke victory on a smoggy day when both of the front two shot five-under-par rounds of 67.
He was five clear after a hat-trick of birdies from the 11th, but McIlroy also made four on the long 13th, eagled the 15th from 18 feet – Hanson birdied – and then cut the difference to two with a five-foot putt at the next.
World No 25 Hanson’s par save from 15 feet preserved the gap, but there was still a possibility of a play-off when Hanson’s approach to the 471-yard last came down in rough above a bunker.
He thought he might be entitled to a free drop because of a plugged lie, but was refused it and after doing well to chip to 10 feet he breathed a sigh of relief when McIlroy’s 15-foot birdie attempt just missed.
That left Hanson with two putts for his sixth European Tour win – the last came with a closing eagle in the Netherlands last month – and he took them.
“Rory made a tremendous effort and put quite a bit of pressure on me – his second to the 15th was true class,” Hanson added. “He gave me a bit of a cushion early on (McIlroy missed two four-foot par putts) and I was maybe a little too defensive at the end, but it all worked out.
“My short game used to be my weakest part, but I’ve been working on it and my putting has really improved.”
In Chicago, Hanson was angry to be left out all day Saturday and he said the following week that he might not be sending captain Olazabal “that many Christmas cards”.
But the pair chatted last week and are back on good terms. “I was a bit disappointed,” Hanson said, “but there’s no feeling of revenge or wanting to show everyone now. It’s a team effort and we ended up winning it.”
McIlroy is staying in China, but only for a one-day head-to-head against Tiger Woods – joint fourth in Malaysia yesterday after a closing 63.
The rest of the week is being spent with his tennis star girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki in Bulgaria – she is playing a tournament there – but he returns to Asia for the Singapore Open and his defence of the Hong Kong Open. Those events will give the 23-year-old the opportunity to clinch the money list double before the race-ending World Tour Championship in Dubai on November 22-25.
“I’m happy with how I played, but a little disappointed,” McIlroy said. “I missed a few opportunities on the front nine and it was too little, too late.
“I wanted to make him work for it and it would have been nice to hole the putt on the last, but it wasn’t to be and Peter deserved it.”
A closing birdie by Donald for a 66 enabled him to deny Poulter, who had a 65, a share of third place, while there were no fewer than nine of the Ryder Cup side in the top 15.
Justin Rose, now down to third on the ‘Race to Dubai’, tied for sixth, Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell were joint 11th and Lee Westwood and Nicolas Colsaerts finished in joint 14th.
“It just shows we had a strong team,” Donald said.
Poulter added: “The board is full of Ryder Cup players, which you would expect. The guys are still on a high – and rightly so.”