The first World Golf Championship of the year saw a handful of players climb the Race to Dubai rankings with Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat and English duo Ian Poulter and Paul Casey finishing the week as the highest placed European Tour members in a share of third place.
They were 10 shots behind champion Dustin Johnson who finished on 21 under par.
Poulter, who secured his fourth consecutive top ten finish in his last four European Tour starts, came into the final day on the back of impressive rounds of 68, 68 and 69 before adding his third 68 of the week with a brilliant display of putting on the back nine after a one over par front nine dropped him down the leaderboard at Club de Golf Chapultepec.
With his tied third finish, the Englishman picks up 465.3 Race to Dubai points to jump up from 10th to second.
“I took a week off to go skiing before going home to hit some balls which didn’t really go very well,” said the Ryder Cup star.
“I didn’t feel great when I arrived here so I didn’t do an awful lot of putting, to be honest. So, I don’t really know why I putted nicely this week. I think my pace was good. I felt comfortable with the speed of the greens and the way they sloped.
“My last three starts were sixth, third, sixth, so I was going six, three, six, three right? It’s good, it’s a great finish. I’m happy where my golf is, I’m happy where everyone else is, and I’m just enjoying myself.”
In contrast to the four impressive rounds from Poulter, Casey only picked up one shot from his opening two rounds after a 71 and 72 but found another gear at the weekend with superb back-to-back 65s to join his fellow countryman and Aphibarnrat in third place.
Both players enter the Race to Dubai Rankings on 465.3 points which leaves them tied 15th.
“My game feels really good,” said Casey after his first European Tour start of the season. “It was a big tournament with a lot of points on offer and playing a limited schedule between both tours, it’s important I capitalise in events like this.
“I want to be in the thick of things and maybe in with a chance to win a Race to Dubai as well, that would be really fun. So, big stuff. Game’s good, looking forward to it.”
Meanwhile, Sergio Garcia finished one shot further back to share sixth place with PGA Tour members Cameron Smith and Patrick Cantlay. The Spaniard collects 270 Race to Dubai points and jumps up to 11th in the rankings.
Former Race to Dubai leader David Lipsky and this week’s Oman Open defending champion Joost Luiten were the next best placed European Tour players as they took a slice of 10th with American duo Tiger Woods and Keegan Bradley.
The pair pick up 161.1 points which sees Luiten move up one place to eighth while Lipsky remains in sixth.
The top 50 players in the Race to Dubai rankings will contest the season-ending DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai from November 21-24 where US$3 million will be up for grabs for the winner, making it the richest prize in world golf.
The inaugural Saudi International powered by SBIA saw several players making strong strides in the Race to Dubai with Haotong Li chief among them.
The rising Chinese star finished runner-up to Dustin Johnson in the historic event at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club.
While American Johnson put in a silky display, which included a second round 61, to take the €508,260 winner’s cheque after a captivating final round duel with playing partner Li, the 23-year-old put the disappointment of a late rules infringement penalty at last week’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic behind him to finish two strokes back at 17 under par.
That saw him claim 472 Race to Dubai points in the process to move 68 places from 77th to ninth place in the European Tour’s season-long rankings.
Having entered the final round tied for the lead at 16 under par, there was little to separate the pair over the front nine. Two-time European Tour winner Li got his nose in front with a birdie on nine but Johnson hit back with consecutive birdies on 11 and 12.
Li’s chance looked to have gone when he dropped shots on the 13th and 14th before Johnson opened the door again with a bogey on 16.
But the 2016 US Open champion showed his class with a birdie-birdie finish over the final two holes while Li served further notice of his world-beating potential by calmly rolling in a five foot birdie putt at the last to secure solo second place.
“I think he deserved to win this event,” said Li who had been docked two strokes on the final hole at Emirates Golf Club last week for breaking one of the game’s new rules which says a caddie cannot stand behind a player when he lines up to take a putt – the penalty saw Li drop from tied third to tied 12th.
“It was a very good match, especially the front nine. I wasn’t my best, but I learned a lot and especially those last few holes, it was good for me. I’m very happy to finish solo second this week.”
England’s Tom Lewis produced a blistering final round of 65 which began with five birdies in a row to take third place on 16 under par, claiming 266 points to move from 30th to 11th in the Race to Dubai as the Kingdom hosted its first ever professional golf event.
“I was happy with that,” said the two-time European Tour winner. “We did really well, me and (caddie) John, working out some numbers. I was able to hole the putts and I couldn’t have asked for a better start. Unfortunately, I didn’t kick on from there.
“Hopefully if I can just start better and then carry on doing what I’m doing when I do shoot 1-over, then maybe I’ll walk away with a trophy.”
Australia’s Min Woo Lee entered the Race to Dubai in 28th position after taking fourth place at 15 under par in his first event of the season while France’s Alexander Levy made a huge leap from 161st to 30th after finishing one stroke back in fifth.
Dubai Desert Classic winner Bryson DeChambeau put in another solid display to share sixth place with Ryan Fox, Ian Poulter and Scott Hend at 11 under.
The American moves from fourth place to third in the rankings while New Zealand’s Fox leaps from 72nd to 34th, Australian Hend progresses from 33rd to 25th, and Englishman Poulter solidifies 10th position.
The top 60 players in the Race to Dubai rankings will contest the season-ending DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai from November 21-24.
Eddie Pepperell defied miserable conditions with a little help from his mum to win his second European Tour title of the season in the British Masters – and with it a different Masters appearance next April.
Pepperell carded a closing 72 at a wet and windy Walton Heath to complete a wire-to-wire victory on nine under par, two shots ahead of playing partner Alexander Bjork from Sweden.
Australian Lucas Herbert and England’s Jordan Smith finished two shots further back, with tournament host Justin Rose carding a closing 70 to finish eighth on three under and Ryder Cup team-mate Tommy Fleetwood another stroke behind.
Pepperell’s three-shot overnight lead was down to a single stroke when he three-putted the ninth – the same hole where he enjoyed a spectacular hole-in-one on Thursday – and Bjork covered the front nine in 34.
However, Pepperell then promptly holed his second shot to the 10th from 122 yards for an eagle to move three clear and, although bogeys on the 15th and 16th set up a nervous finish, the 27-year-old from Oxfordshire saved par from a bunker on the last to seal a deserved win.
“The credit for the eagle goes to my mum Marian because she gave me some mittens as I was walking off the 10th tee,” Pepperell joked. “It was such a tough day in the conditions, I didn’t swing it well from the get-go and it was an absolute grind.
“I did not sleep great the last two nights. My mind was very active, especially with all the stuff after the hole-in-one, the social media.
“It was hard to keep my mind on the golf because I was leading all week, I didn’t do much practice and I played terrible leading up to the event; Wednesday was the worst I’ve played for ages.
“I didn’t know how I felt about my game, I had to grind it out at times and I guess to have won like that is really satisfying. I said on Saturday I was not sure how I felt being in the lead in this tournament compared to any other but now I’ve won it does feel very special. It’s brilliant.”
The win will take Pepperell into the world’s top 35 and almost certainly secure a Masters debut in 2019, with the top 50 at the end of December qualifying for the first major of the year at Augusta National in April.
Pepperell was ranked outside the top 500 as recently as May last year, but won the Qatar Masters in February and followed a runners-up finish in the Scottish Open with a tie for sixth in the Open seven days later, carding a closing 67 at Carnoustie despite being hungover.
“It’s always been a dream to play in the Masters and it’s been my caddie Mick’s goal to get me into the top 50,” Pepperell added. “It also shows I’m not a one-hit wonder and I’m actually really pleased for my mum and dad to see it because they weren’t in Qatar. For them to be here is pretty awesome.
“I’m interested to see how different Augusta is to what it appears on TV and there’s going to be some nice events for me to look forward to next year. It’s going to be a great opportunity for me to go to America and play a few more majors and WGCs (World Golf Championship events) obviously.
“I haven’t got my head around that, but I intend to.”
Fleetwood’s tie for ninth saw him close the gap slightly to Ryder Cup partner Francesco Molinari at the top of the Race to Dubai, although Open champion
Molinari – who was tied 56th – still enjoys a lead of more than 1.3million points with five events remaining.