Graeme McDowell is determined to chase down leader Dustin Johnson in the WGC-HSBC Champions so he can close on Henrik Stenson at the top of the Race to Dubai or even overtake him.
The 2010 US Open champion is €443,725 behind Stenson and playing just one of the two remaining events following this week’s WGC in Shanghai in the battle to become European No 1.
But after an eight under 64 left him just four shots behind leader Johnson in solo third at Sheshan International, McDowell knows he has a golden opportunity to heap massive pressure on Race to Dubai leader Stenson, who is tied for 58th in an event where the winner will take home €1,012,145. Leaderboard
If McDowell wins, he will take his money list tally to €2,722,519 and overtake Stenson who is 19 shots behind Johnson and 16 behind second placed Ian Poulter in Shanghai. Race to Dubai standings
Given the gap in the Race to Dubai, McDowell must finish no worse than second tomorrow to overtake Stenson, who is playing both next week’s Turkish Airlines Open and the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai. WGC-HSBC Champions prize fund
“Dustin, obviously great frontrunner, doing what he needed to do today,” McDowell said before the American drove into water and racked up a double bogey seven at the last to card a 66 and see his commanding lead cut to just three shots from Poulter, who birdied the last for a 63 on a day of low scoring.
“It’s just nice to be in contention going into tomorrow,” added McDowell, who is only four strokes behind Johnson on 14 under. “I know conditions are going to be fairly similar again tomorrow and I’ll have to go low to even finish second here.”
McDowell holed a bunker shot for an eagle two at there 16th for a bogey-free 64 that would be a score worth repeating on Sunday.
“Hope so. Anything in that general vicinity tomorrow, I’m not going to say, might have a shot. From here it looks like Dustin is going to have to beat himself for anybody to have a chance to watch him. Race to Dubai points will be very important to me; I have a lot to play for tomorrow. If not the trophy, second place will certainly be worth my while tomorrow.”
Rory McIlroy birdied the last two holes for a 67 to go into the final day tied for fourth with Graham DeLaet and Justin Rose on 12 under, six shots behind Johnson.
“I just wanted to finish strongly so at least I can go out and have a chance tomorrow, if I get off to a fast start,” McIlroy said. “Obviously there’s a couple of guys, Poults and G-Mac, between myself and Dustin, who is way out in front. So try and catch those guys early and then see what I can do from there.”
Johnson looked set to retain his five-stroke overnight lead before his double at the last and if McDowell finds some form with the putter, he could be very dangerous indeed.
He overhauled Johnson to win the 2010 US Open at Pebble Beach and knows that a good putting performance will give him a chance.
“Bizarrely, I really haven’t got it going on the greens yet this week,” McDowell said. “I made a couple today, a bit of a bonus with the bunker shot on 16. I haven’t holed a lot of putts, though, so hopefully I’m saving it for tomorrow….
“I had two putts on the last two holes, which could have gone in, but you know, that’s golf, and really had a lot of fun today. I hit the ball really well today. Looking forward to tomorrow.
“I knew it was going to be low scoring today. We got off to a nice start, I said to [caddie] Kenny [Comboy], we’ve just got to keep the pedal down here, everyone is going to be going low.
“Like I say, Dustin is doing what he needed to do; Martin Kaymer shooting 10-under, Ian shooting 8-or 9-under in front of me. Golf course is set up for scoring and it is what it is. It’s a WGC event and these guys are pretty good. Nice to be kind of mixing it up with them.”
Johnson started the day with a five-shot advantage following a course record 63 on Friday and that margin was intact when he headed to the par five 18th hole after ten birdies in his opening 17 holes.
However, the big-hitting American found the water on the last and carded his second double bogey of the day, after twice failing to chip onto the green on the par fourth tenth hole, where he signed for a six.
That meant a round of 66 and an 18 under par total of 198 for the US Ryder Cup player, who will now take a three-stroke lead over Poulter into the final round, with 2010 US Open Champion McDowell a further shot back.
“I’m still a little mad from my double bogey on 18,” said Johnson. “But to have a three shot lead going into the last day is good, and I’m looking forward to the challenge.
“I still have to play really well. Obviously the guys that are right behind me, they are playing very well, too. So it’s still going to be a tough day tomorrow. I’ve got to come out and make a lot of birdies.”
On a day of low scoring in China, defending champion Poulter fired a superb nine under par 63, which included five birdies in row from the third hole and an eagle three on the 14th, as he surged to 15 under par and firmly into contention to become only the second player after Tiger Woods to retain a World Golf Championships title.
“Nine under par on any golf course is a good score, and that was a good nine under par,” said Poulter. “I guess the only blemish for me, which leaves a bit of a sour taste, was three‑putting 17, and actually missing a couple of opportunities.
“As silly as it sounds when you make eight birdies and an eagle, there were putts on one, two and eight that I could have made and a few others.”
McDowell will also be looking to put pressure on Johnson in the final round after posting six birdies in his opening 14 holes and then chipping in from the greenside bunker for an eagle on the 16th hole in his flawless eight under par round of 64.
Former world No 1 Rory McIlroy followed an early birdie at the third with a bogey at the par-three fourth but got that shot back at the next before storming home in 32 with birdies at the 10th, 14th and the last two holes.
“The back nine was much better than the way I played the back nine yesterday,” McIlroy said of his seven shot improvement on Friday’s homeward nine. “It was good. I was falling way behind, nine or ten shots off the lead or whatever it was.”
Assessing his chances, McIlroy added: “I need to get off to a faster start. The last couple of days, I’ve sort of been even par through four or five holes, and really need to be 2-or 3-under to give yourself a kick-start because you’ve got two good chances on 7 and 8 to make birdies there, and you know, you see guys at 4-or 5-under par and then you have some chances on the back nine, as well.
“There’s definitely a low score out there. You just need to take advantage of the holes that you really should be birdieing.
“I’m giving myself plenty of chances for birdies still and I’m up there contending in a WGC, so there are good signs. Still a little bit of work to do on a few areas of the game, but it’s definitely heading in the right direction.”
Germany’s Martin Kaymer eight shots off the lead, tied with Bubba Watson and Boo Weekley on ten under par, after surging up the leaderboard with a magnificent course record 62.
WGC-HSBC Champions at Sheshan International Golf Club (Par 72)
198 D Johnson (USA) 69 63 66,
201 I Poulter (Eng) 71 67 63,
202 G McDowell (Nir) 69 69 64,
204 G Delaet (Can) 71 68 65, J Rose (Eng) 68 71 65, R McIlroy (Nir) 65 72 67,
206 M Kaymer (Ger) 70 74 62, B Weekley (USA) 70 67 69, B Watson (USA) 68 69 69,
207 J Donaldson (Wal) 67 74 66, T Fleetwood (Eng) 68 70 69, K Bradley (USA) 71 68 68, S Garcia (Esp) 70 68 69,
208 G Fdez-Castaño (Esp) 67 71 70,
209 J Spieth (USA) 68 71 70, S Hend (Aus) 69 74 66, E Els (RSA) 69 69 71,
210 G Bourdy (Fra) 75 68 67, L Oosthuizen (RSA) 70 70 70, B Van Pelt (USA) 77 67 66, J Jeong (Kor) 70 69 71,
211 F Molinari (Ita) 72 69 70, P Casey (Eng) 69 73 69, J Dufner (USA) 73 67 71, L Donald (Eng) 70 71 70, P Mickelson (USA) 71 68 72, L Wen-Chong (Chn) 72 67 72,
212 B Horschel (USA) 71 69 72, L Westwood (Eng) 71 73 68, M Manassero (Ita) 72 70 70, T Jaidee (Tha) 76 68 68, M Brown (Nzl) 72 68 72,
213 M Ilonen (Fin) 72 69 72, B Haas (USA) 72 72 69, H Fujita (Jpn) 75 70 68, J Van Zyl (RSA) 72 73 68, P Hanson (Swe) 70 73 70, S Piercy (USA) 72 73 68, D Lynn (Eng) 74 70 69, R Moore (USA) 70 74 69, H Wen-Yi (Chn) 70 74 69,
214 M Thompson (USA) 74 72 68, R Fowler (USA) 74 70 70,
215 B Grace (RSA) 77 71 67, K Aphibarnrat (Tha) 69 78 68, C Wood (Eng) 71 71 73, K Duke (USA) 70 72 73, B Gay (USA) 71 72 72, M Kawamura (Jpn) 73 72 70, G Bhullar (Ind) 69 71 75, J Walker (USA) 73 73 69, K Streelman (USA) 70 73 72,
216 N Watney (USA) 75 74 67, D Points (USA) 72 74 70, D Ernst (USA) 71 72 73, J Merrick (USA) 72 75 69, T Björn (Den) 74 72 70,
217 B Snedeker (USA) 73 74 70, D Popovic (Aus) 77 71 69, P Uihlein (USA) 71 73 73, H Stenson (Swe) 74 76 67, L Hao-Tong (Chn) 72 71 74,
218 S Gallacher (Sco) 73 73 72, B Seuk-Hyun (Kor) 81 68 69, M Hendry (Nzl) 72 73 73,
219 W Ashun (Chn) 74 75 70, D Fichardt (RSA) 70 74 75, J Blixt (Swe) 70 75 74,
220 D Howell (Eng) 72 75 73,
221 R Ishikawa (Jpn) 81 72 68, M Jiménez (Esp) 75 76 70, R Sterne (RSA) 74 73 74,
222 R Jacquelin (Fra) 81 70 71,
224 H Mu (Chn) 76 75 73,
226 G Coetzee (RSA) 75 77 74,
231 B Rumford (Aus) 75 77 79,
240 H Ming-Jie (Chn) 83 77 80
WD Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn) 71 WD