SHANGHAI (Reuters) - World number two Phil Mickelson survived a dramatic collapse to win the HSBC Champions in a three-way playoff after a thrilling finish to Asia’s richest tournament on Sunday.
The 37-year-old American blew a five-shot lead during his final round and had to fight it out with Britons Ross Fisher and Lee Westwood before sinking a four-foot birdie putt on the second extra hole to claim his first title in Asia.
Fisher should have won it in regulation after walking down the final fairway with a one-stroke lead and Mickelson in the water, but he chipped across the green and his ball also ended up in the lake.
That brought Westwood into the equation as the Englishman had grabbed six birdies in seven holes after the turn to take a five-under-par 67 and finish on 10-under for the tournament.
“It feels amazing, I don’t how it happened, the whole day was a whirlwind,” said three-times major winner Mickelson, who went into the final round with a two-shot lead only to shoot a 76.
“I had to fight it out because I had a big lead but then hit some horrible shots. It’s a funny game, golf, because I thought I was out of it at the last when I hit the water.”
Fisher, ranked 139 places behind Mickelson, shared second with Westwood after a hugely impressive week at the Sheshan Golf Club marred only by that one calamitous shot on his 72nd hole that left him with a final round 74.
“I can walk out of here with my head held very high,” said 26-year-old Fisher, who is heading home to get married next week.
“I’ve pushed the world number two all the way ... I‘m obviously a bit disappointed not to walk away with the trophy but it’s been a great week.”
American Kevin Stadler, who led for the first two rounds, was fourth on nine-under-par after a 73, while Fiji’s three-times major winner Vijay Singh and Ireland’s British Open champion Padraig Harrington shared fifth a further shot back.
Chasing his first tournament win outside the United States in 14 years on his first outing in China, Mickelson looked to be cruising to victory until the eighth hole.
Forced to take two tee shots after his first drive disappeared into the garden of one of Tuscan-style villas that surround the course, he got a bogey and it all went downhill from there.
Fisher drew level when Mickelson found the water at the 13th for a double bogey and took a two-shot lead when he birdied the 15th and the American dropped another shot after overcooking a wedge on the green.
Although not perhaps as dramatic as the double bogey on the final hole that cost Mickelson victory at the 2006 U.S. Open, this was a spectacular collapse by the 37-year-old.
Westwood’s birdie blitz, meanwhile, sent him storming up the leaderboard but he looked to have blown his chance when he just missed birdie putts on the 17th and 18th.
“Last two holes I hit two, what I thought were, perfect putts and neither went in,” said Westwood.
“So that’s kind of the way the week went.”
But Mickelson and Fisher both missed chances to seal victory on their first trip to the 18th and recorded a bogey and double bogey respectively to let Westwood in for the playoff drama.
South Korean defending champion Yang Yong-eun, who shared fifth place with four other players going into the final day, was earlier disqualified for signing for the wrong score in the third round.
Editing by Peter Rutherford