Francesco Molinari earned himself an early birthday present by winning the HSBC Champions tournament by one shot from Lee Westwood at Sheshan International GC in Shanghai on Sunday.
Molinari, who will be 28 on Monday, led from the first round and kept his nerve on the final day to hold off the challenge of the new world number one, Lee Westwood.
Molinari and Westwood forged clear of the field to shoot five-under-par 67s for the Italian to clinch the title with his 72-hole total of 19-under-par.
A birdie on the second gained Molinari some room for error by stretching his lead to two strokes, then he went tit-for-tat with Westwood to the turn both players picking up birdies at the third, fifth and eighth holes.
Westwood was able to put some pressure on his opponent when taking three on the 401 yard par-four tenth but was left frustrated when his long birdie put stopped on the edge of the eleventh hole when he seemed certain to go level.
The scores remained with just a shot between them until they reached the sixteenth hole, Westwood’s long tee shot landed just short of the green while Molinari found the rough when attempting to play safe with an iron.
But, Molinari played a great second shot to within 10 feet of the pin and Westwood’s chip over the bunker found itself in the rough. The world number one recovered to make par, but the Italian sank his putt to go two clear with two to play.
Par-par finish was enough for Molinari to hold on to the lead as Westwood reduced the deficit to one stroke with a birdie of the par-five eighteenth.
Luke Donald claimed a share of third place with Scotland’s Richie Ramsey, but he’ll be disappointed with three bogeys on the outward nine that killed off his hopes of mounting a final day challenge.
He finished the event with a one-over-par 73 to finish ten shots behind his Ryder Cup team-mate Molinari.
Tiger Woods shot a final round 68 to tie for sixth, only his third top ten finish of the year but an indication he is getting closer to a return to form.
Tiger goes for his fifth Chevron World Challenge at Sherwood next week where Luke Donald will attempt to break his season duck.
Paddy Power bet 7/2 for Woods to win next weekend while they bet 10/1 Donald to repeat his 2005 win in the event.
WGC – HSBC CHAMPIONS FINAL LEADERBOARD
-19 F Molinari (Ita)
-18 L Westwood
-9 L Donald, R Ramsay
-8 R McIlroy
-7 T Woods (USA), R Green (Aus), R Goosen (RSA), P Hanson (Swe), P Case