Danny Willett produced a ‘very special’ round of golf to give his chance of finishing top of the European rankings a major shot in the arm.
The Sheffield golfer is going head to head with world number three Rory McIlroy to finish top of the Race To Dubai standings with only two events remaining in the season.
And he cut the gap on the Northern Ireland star with a brilliant final round to finish third at the WGC HSBC Champions tournament in China.
Willett fired an incredible ten under par round of 62 to surge up the leaderboard and take third spot behind winner Russell Knox of Scotland.
And the flawless final day heroics were not lost on the 28-year-old.
“It’s very special,” Willett said. “It’s special shooting 62 at home with the lads, it’s always nice, but in a World Golf Championships on a Sunday when it means something a bit more, obviously it’s that little bit more special.”
Willett started the week 399,385 points behind McIlroy in the Race To Dubai. After McIlroy finished tied for 11th, that gap now stands at 74,213 with two events to go.
McIlroy will not play in BMW Masters in Shanghai at the end of the week, giving Willett an excellent chance of taking top spot heading into the season closer, the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
Willett said: “Third here could be big for me.
“Especially with Rory not playing next week, we could climb a few more points on him and give us a nice buzz going into the next week into Dubai.”
McIlroy acknowledged he could be chasing Willett when he arrives in Dubai next week.
He said: “He’s got a great chance to do something next week at the BMW.
“So no matter what happened this week, he’s playing next week and has a great chance to creep up on me or overtake the lead.
“I’m just with the mind-set that I need to go to Dubai and win and whatever happens from there, that’s all I can do.”
Willett finished three shots behind winner Knox and was left looking back on his second round 74 with a what-if?
He said: “It would have been good to have it good all week.
“I had a five-hole blip there where I got down on myself and beat myself up, and threw in a few silly three-whacks and a couple of bad shots.
“In a five or six-hole stretch, I was five or six over and, looking back, that’s probably what did it.
“But if I can learn from it and move on, that’s good.”
Willett’s fellow Sheffield golfer Matt Fitzpatrick remains on course to achieve his goal of a top 50 place in the world rankings by the end of the year after a superbly consistent performance over the four days in China.
Fitzpatrick’s five under par final round left him on -15 and claiming a tie for seventh place.
The 21-year-old shot sub-70 rounds on all four days to continue his superb run of recent form.