What happened at the WGC-HSBC Champions?

Well, what a finish at Sheshan International. Tony Finau had led by three going into the final round thanks to a birdie-birdie-birdie finish on Saturday. But at the 72nd hole he was level with playing partner Xander Schauffele and the pair were two clear of the third player of their group, defending champion Justin Rose.

Finau and Schauffele left themselves eagle putts at the par-5 finishing hole, only for Rose’s approach to knock Schauffele’s ball into the water. The crowd fell silent. They did not have the advantage of a commentator like the rest of the watching world. Schauffele’s ball, we were told, would of course be replaced.

Admit it, you weren’t sure for a moment either…

While Rose got up and down from the edge of the drink for a 6 to finish at 10-under, the American pair both two-putted to force extra holes.

So they returned to the 18th tee, from which Finau found the sand and was forced to lay up. It proved to be the shot that handed the title to his opponent as Schauffele tapped in for birdie which proved enough.

Rose’s third-place is significant for two reasons: Firstly, it means Tiger Woods remains the only player to ever defend a WGC event. And secondly, Brooks Koepka will stay at World No. 1, with Rose moving above Dustin Johnson into second.

Final WGC HSBC Champions leaderboard

Talking Point

I still have to pinch myself that Tony Finau is 29 years old. The American didn’t really burst onto the scene until 2015 when he finished in the top 10 at the PGA Championship. He broke his PGA Tour duck at the 2016 Puerto Rico Open and was widely tipped to win big things over the next couple of years.

But while he added three more major top 10s in 2018, which proved to be enough to gain a wildcard pick for his Ryder Cup debut at Le Golf National, Finau is yet to get over the line again and his career is littered with near-misses like this.

The way Finau finished on Saturday you felt he was going to go on and win by six or seven. But his problem is he makes as many bogeys as he does birdies, as his mixed round of 71 on Sunday proved.

There’s an old cliche in football about struggling strikers needing just one to go in off the back of their head and the goals will start flooding in. You feel that Finau, who plays so aggressively, just needs to get over the line in a slightly fortunate manner and it will push him on to greater things.

Otherwise I’m afraid that win in Puerto Rico, against a weak field, just isn’t going to cut it.

Schauffele, meanwhile, now has three big victories at the start of what is his third season on the PGA Tour. He picked up the Greenbrier Classic in his rookie season before going on to become the first debutant to win the Tour Championship. And now the 25-year-old, who celebrated his birthday on Thursday, has a WGC to his name.

And yet, if you were asking me who I’d back next year to win a major out of these two, I’d still throw money at Finau.

I’m a sucker like that.