Martin Kaymer was five shots behind and going nowhere Sunday, making nothing but pars when he needed much more to give himself a chance in the HSBC Champions.
From a deep bunker in front of the seventh green, he holed the sand shot for a birdie, and suddenly the game felt easy. Very easy.
That was the start of an amazing finish for Kaymer, who ran off nine birdies over the last 12 holes to blow past Fredrik Jacobson and a host of stars on his way to a nine-under 63 and a three-shot victory at Sheshan International.
"I didn't miss a lot of golf shots," the German said.
Kaymer wound up setting two World Golf Championship records that showed just how well he played in Shanghai. It was the largest comeback (five shots) in the final round, and his 63 was the lowest final round by a winner since this series began in 1999.
"I just played really good golf, and I'm glad that it came together," Kaymer said. "Because the last few weeks, I played good golf but it has not happened yet.
"And this week, it was nice that it happened here, the World Golf Championship event."
Kaymer, the PGA champion at Whistling Straits last year, became the 10th player to have won a major and a WGC event. Finishing at 20-under 268 and earning US$1.2 million (Dh7,064m), he moved to second on the European Tour money list and to No 4 in the world rankings. He still has golf left this year, although it gave him a different outlook.
He opened his season with an eight-shot win over a strong field at Abu Dhabi, and five weeks later went to No 1 in the world. But he struggled with his sudden popularity and the demands that came along with it, and Kaymer has not looked the same. That is what made this win so important.
"It was an OK year," he said. "But now it's a good year."
Jacobson was steady until a three-putt bogey from across the green on the par-five eighth. But after Kaymer ran off four successive birdies on the back nine to catch him and pull ahead, Jacobson answered with a pair of birdies to stay with him.
The Swede just could not hold on. He realised Kaymer had made a birdie on the 17th to go one ahead, and not only did Jacobson fail to match him, he pulled his tee shot into the rough and took bogey.
That put him three shots behind when Kaymer made one last birdie on the 18th, and Jacobson at that point was content to lay up on the par-five 18th and keep second place to himself.
"I felt I was very much in it," Jacobson, who closed with a 71, said. "Obviously, 17 was a bit of a swing after I hit my tee shot. I knew if I was going to have a shot at it, I probably had to get up-and-down to have a realistic chance."
Graeme McDowell finished with two birdies for a 67 to finish alone in third.
Westwood shot 40 on the front nine and closed with a 74 to tie for 13th with Ian Poulter and Xin-jun Zhang of China, who inspired the gallery by holing a pitch for eagle on the 16th hole to salvage a 72. Europe now occupies the first four positions in the world rankings, starting with Luke Donald at No 1.
Even though he was not at Sheshan International - his wife is expecting their second child - Donald came out a big winner.
With McIlroy failing to win, it kept Donald with a $1.4m lead in Europe as he tries to become the first player to win the money titles on the PGA and European tours.