SHANGHAI — It took only 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.
Johnson broke loose from a three-way challenge on the back nine by playing a five-hole stretch in 5 under. He closed with 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," said Johnson, who shot a tournament-record 24-under 264. "Those guys put a lot of pressure on me. I'm really proud of the way I handled myself."
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. When it looked as though he would fall behind again, Johnson holed a 20-foot birdie putt on the next hole.
A pitch-in for eagle on the par-4 16th effectively won the tournament for him.
With a one-shot lead, Johnson hit a 3-iron about 25 yards short of the green with a front pin. The pitch was perfect, rolling in as if it were a putt. Johnson raised his left hand and pumped his right fist. And when he waved to the Chinese fans, they waved back as if Johnson were the star attraction in a parade.
That he was, and plenty of stars were in that parade.
For most of the back nine, the top seven players on the leaderboards consisted of Johnson and half of Europe's 2012 Ryder Cup -winning team.
Poulter (66) and Graeme McDowell (66), who both had a share of the lead at some point, looked capable of winning until Johnson's late rally. McDowell finished four back. Right behind were Sergio Garcia (63) at 18 under, Justin Rose (68) at 16 under and Rory McIlroy (69) at 15 under.
CHAMPIONS: Fred Couples won the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in San Francisco, and Kenny Perry topped the yearlong points race to earn a $1 million annuity. Couples closed with 2-under 69 to finish at 17-under 267 and end a 16-event winless streak. In second six shots back were Bernhard Langer (67), Peter Senior (69) and Mark O'Meara (70). Perry (68) finished in a group of four at 10 under.