Ian Poulter held off a late challenge from young Matteo Mannassero to run out a one-shot victor in Sunday’s final round of the European Tour’s Hong Kong Open. Low scoring was the order of the week as freakishly still conditions, smooth putting surfaces and placing on the fairways combined to ensure that the Fanling layout played a particularly benign 6,700 yards.
Poulter, who flirted with a 59 on Friday, never really looked in anything less than total control of his game all weekend. For a guy famously insecure about his ball-striking, his game looked in wonderful condition; a sequence of lasered iron shots, capped by a majestic five-wood to the par-five 13th, proved the platform for victory.
Sunday had been billed as a duel between the Englishman and US Open champ Graeme MacDowell, but the latter’s challenge faltered early on and a spirited late rally could only see him muster enough momentum for fifth place. The Northener had been hoping to use the Asian swing to usurp Martin Kaymer’s position at the summit of the Race to Dubai ranking, but for the second week in a row he was forced to settle for a high finish and some largely inconsequential place-money (well, to the extent that nearly €77,000 can ever really be called ‘inconsequential’).
The day’s most impressive performance undoubtedly came from Mannassero, whose 62 vaulted him from the periphery of contention into a share of second. In contrast to McIlroy, whose challenge never really materialised over the weekend, the the Italian rarely seemed to be doing anything other than getting up-and-down or holing out.
The same couldn’t be said of England’s Simon Dyson, however, who successfully complained his way out of holing birdie putts on nearly every single green on the way in and had to settle for second alongside the teenager. The Englishman gave his round a frank appraisal in post-round interview:
“I had a good chance at nine – I had a good chance on every hole the back nine. Didn’t miss a green and they just didn’t want to drop and that last one summed it up, absolutely summed it up. It can’t miss three foot out, downhill, downgrain and it stops two inches short.”
If you thinks that sounds painful, though, spare a thought for Mark F. Haastrup. The Dane occupied the final qualifying spot on the European Tour money list going into Honk Kong and, having tried and failed to get into the field, could only sit and watch as the American, Anthony Kang, earned just enough from his fourth-place finish to leap-frog him and ensure a return to Q-School.