World's finest in great two-ball of China

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The Independent Online

When China put up the many millions required to persuade America to allow them to stage a World Golf Championship event, they dreamt of Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods going out in the final group on the final day. This morning that dream was realised.

The world Nos 1 and 2 were at the top of the HSBC Champions leaderboard after the third round, with Mickelson holding a two-shot lead over Woods. Their compatriot Nick Watney was playing gooseberry-in-chief, making up the marquee three-ball and standing on 12-under alongside Woods.

With respect to Watney, nobody was expecting the winner of the £720,000 cheque to come from anywhere but the two most famous players in golf. Mickelson's 67 yesterday certainly suggested he was capable of denying Woods what would have been his 17th WGC title. With the wind switching and changing the entire make-up of the Sheshan course in Shanghai, Mickelson, the champion two years ago, dropped just one shot in his five-under round. Its brilliance was confirmed on the scoreboard. Of the leading contenders at halfway, his was the only sub-70 score.

Woods and Watney both posted 70s, while the round of the day belonged to Lee Westwood. A sparkling seven-under-par 65 put him in the hunt on 10-under. Yet it was the golfer nicknamed Lefty who was the talk of the town, particularly the right-handed shot he played from behind a tree to salvage a bogey. Mickelson saw it as significant as his shot in the WGC CA Championship he won in March, where he played a similarly remarkable recovery. "I was up against a tree, took a pitching wedge and flipped it over and chipped out on to the fairway," he said. "I said to my caddie after I did that, I thought that was a good omen, because I ended up winning at Doral having to hit a right-handed shot."

While Woods holds the advantage when the duo are paired together, Mickelson claimed the bragging rights in the final round of The Masters earlier this year, although both went out hoping for a better end-result this time after Angel Cabrera walked away from Augusta with the green jacket.