SHANGHAI, (Reuters) – Lee Westwood narrowly failed to begin life as world number one in winning style when Italian Francesco Molinari pipped him to the HSBC Champions tournament yesterday after a thrilling final-round shootout.
Second place was still easily enough for the Briton to tighten his grip on top spot with his three rivals Tiger Woods (tied sixth), defending champion Phil Mickelson (tied 41st) and Martin Kaymer (tied 30th) finishing way off the pace.
The 37-year-old Westwood, playing in his first tournament since a calf injury forced him into a break four weeks ago, pushed Molinari all the way but missed an eagle putt on the last that would have forced a playoff.
Molinari, who turns 28 on Monday, held his nerve on the final hole to card a 67 and a combined 19-under-par total of 269 to land him his second European tour title.
Westwood’s solid play all week enabled him to finish a massive 11 shots clear of Woods, whose 281-week reign as top dog he ended, and 19 better than Mickelson.
“Eighteen-under-par and nine shots clear of third is never too bad,” said Westwood, while Woods was also in upbeat mood despite missing a five-footer on the 18th in his closing four-under 68.
“Overall I felt like I’ve been hitting it well and it’s just a matter of being patient,” the American said.
Woods destroyed Molinari 4&3 in their Ryder Cup singles match last month but the Italian was streets ahead of the 14-times major winner on the tough Sheshan layout.