x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Johnson brothers in Shanghai spotlight as McIlroy makes cut for Dubai

Northern Irishman moves to 38th on the ladder and Luke Donald is on 55th but will have to wait a week for confirmation into top 60.

Dustin Johnson, right, celebrates with his brother and caddie Austin Johnson on the 18th green.  Andrew Redington / Getty Images
Dustin Johnson, right, celebrates with his brother and caddie Austin Johnson on the 18th green. Andrew Redington / Getty Images

SHANGHAI // Dustin Johnson ended his 2013 season the same way it began, with a big-money victory over a field composed of tournament winners, while former world No 1 Rory McIlroy finally secured a spot in next week’s European Tour finale Dubai, where he will defend the title he won last year.

For Johnson, it was a familial affair. Little brother Austin Johnson was on the bag this week instead of regular caddie Bobby Brown, while Canadian fiance Paulina Gretzky, daughter of the legendary ice hockey player Wayne, was following their every step over 72 holes at Sheshan Golf Club.

On the 18th green, the trio could celebrate when Dustin pocketed the HSBC Champions crown – and a cheque for US$1.4 million (Dh5.14m) – after a three-shot victory over Ian Poulter of England, the defending champion.

“My brother came to caddie for me in Australia and then he was coming on to Thailand with me,” Johnson said.

The trio had enjoyed a holiday together in Thailand after Johnson tied for 12th place at the European Tour’s Perth International in Australia two weeks ago.

“So I just called Bobby and said there’s no point in him to fly all the way over here for this one week, especially as he just had a new baby,” Johnson said.

The trio clearly had a blast in Thailand, posting pictures on social media of them cuddling tiger cubs and riding elephants, as well as a video of Dustin and Austin doing synchronised backflips into a swimming pool.

McIlroy shot 69 to finish joint sixth and moved up to 38th on the season points list, ensuring a spot in the DP World Tour Championship next week in Dubai.

Another former world No 1, Luke Donald improved to 55th. Both players started the week outside the top 60, the number of players who will be invited to the Dubai finale.

Johnson had last won in January at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, his first event of 2013.

The break in Thailand obviously did him a world of good, as he bookended 2013 perfectly with victory in his last event of the year.

The shot that won the tournament for Johnson was a 20-yard pitch-in for eagle at the short, par-four 16th. It finally ended the challenge of Poulter and Graeme McDowell, who had applied pressure on Johnson all day as the lead swapped hands multiple times.

Johnson was happy he was able to share the moment with his little brother.

“I knew on 16 I needed to hit a good tee shot, which I hit perfect,” he said. “If you were going to pick up and place it, it would have been right on that spot.

“And the pitch shot, I was talking to my brother right before I hit. I said: ‘I think I’m going to make this one’. I hit the pitch perfect and it went right in the middle.”