SHANGHAI • Ten days ago, Russell Knox did not have a US Tour win to his name and was not even in the field for the WGC-HSBC Champions. What followed is the stuff of sporting fairy tales.
Knox, from the earlier position of seventh reserve, stood with arms aloft on the 18th green at Sheshan International Golf Club upon delivering Scotland's maiden success at a World Golf Championship.
He had never even played in one of these tournaments before.
The 30-year-old's nerveless closing round of four-under 68 was all the more impressive given the calibre of the chasers; Dustin Johnson (71), Jordan Spieth (70), and Rory McIlroy (66) were among those who could not keep pace with Knox.
"Winning any professional tournament is a massive accomplishment. You're never quite sure if you're ever going to do it because there're so many incredible players throughout the world, especially at tournaments like this with such an elite field," he said after winning by two strokes to claim the US$1.4 million (S$2 million) winner's cheque.
OVERCOMING HIS NERVES
To come and be on top this week is a dream come true. I still can't quite believe I'm here. I was quite calm. But at the same time, that was the most nerve-wracking thing I have ever done.
RUSSELL KNOX on winning the WGC-HSBC Champions, his first US Tour title
"To come and be on top this week is a dream come true. I still can't quite believe I'm here. I was quite calm. But at the same time, that was the most nerve-wracking thing I have ever done."
Knox was the only player not to complete his third round in fading light on Saturday.
He returned to the course early yesterday and birdied the par-five 18th to join American Kevin Kisner at the top of the leader board after 54 holes.
He then used some supreme wedge play to offset two bogeys with six birdies on his way to a 20-under 268 total, to become the first debutant to claim victory in a WGC event since Jeff Maggert in 1999.
Kisner again fell agonisingly short of claiming a first PGA Tour victory, after signing off with a 70 to register his fourth runner-up finish of the year, the other three all coming in play-offs.
Local favourite Li Haotong, 20, is also still looking for his maiden PGA Tour win but by finishing joint seventh, he had already recorded the best-ever finish by a Chinese player.
A stroke behind Kisner after the third round, he signed for a 72 and a 273 total yesterday to tie with Spieth.
Li had a torrid start to his final round in which he played alongside the Masters and US Open champion. A double bogey and three bogeys in his first five holes could have seen him sink without trace.
But he showed his maturity by clawing back to a level-par round, including a chip-in for par at the ninth that resulted in the biggest cheer of the day from the packed home gallery.
"I had a really tough time in my first five holes and like how the year has been, there were lots of ups and downs throughout the round," Li told the Asian Tour website.
"But I have to give thanks to my fans for always supporting me."
In addition to reaching his goal of finishing in the top 10 here, the Shanghai-based golfer also impressed Spieth.
"Man, did he have heart," said the 22-year-old Texan, who will move back to world No. 1 in the new rankings today, leapfrogging Jason Day after the Australian skipped Shanghai to be at the birth of his second child.
"It was unbelievable some of the stuff he was pulling off.
"At one point I looked up at (caddie Michael) Greller and said, 'Man, I feel like I'm beating him by eight shots today and we're tied for the tournament'."
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS