Russell Knox shot a final-round 68 to win his first PGA Tour event Sunday at the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai. Here’s how the year’s final World Golf Championship wrapped up in China:
Leaderboard: Knox (-20), Kisner (-18), Danny Willett (-17), Ross Fisher (-17), Branden Grace (-16), Dustin Johnson (-16)
What it means: This is Knox’s first PGA Tour victory in 93 career starts. He made six birdies against two bogeys and closed with a spotless back-nine 33 to take the title by two. Knox only got into the field last Friday as an alternate after J.B. Holmes withdrew. He is now the first man to win in his World Golf Championships debut. With the victory, Knox is headed to the Masters and will be moving well inside the Official World Golf Ranking’s top 50, which will dramatically alter his 2016 schedule and opportunities. For reference, his $1.4 million winning share nearly matches his total season earnings from 26 events in 2013 ($1.51M).
Round of the day: Willett fired the round of the week, a 10-under 62 that moved him into a tie for third. The Englishman didn’t drop a shot while pouring in 10 birdies.
Best of the rest: There were better rounds, and the tournament went to Knox, but the crowd belonged to 20-year-old Haotong Li. The Chinese native who began the day one back got off to a difficult start, playing his first six holes with three bogeys, two birdies, a double bogey and without a par. After going out in 38, Li excited galleries on the back nine with a birdie-birdie-par finish to shoot a final-round 72 and tie for seventh at 15 under with Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed and Matthew Fitzpatrick. Li threw multiple golf balls into the crowd before finally walking off the 18th green.
Biggest disappointments: Dustin Johnson (71) and Jordan Spieth (70) failed to make a Sunday push. DJ, one back to start, was partially undone by a double bogey-7 at the par-5 eighth that robbed him of momentum after a solid start. Spieth, three back to start, couldn’t replicate his Saturday success after reeling off nine birdies in Round 3.
Shot of the day: Li’s 48-foot birdie putt at the driveable par-4 16th elicited a loud response from the Shanghai crowd:
Quote of the day: “I always thought I would win a big one as the first one. … This will take a long time to sink in.” - Knox