Martin Kaymer was five shots behind and going nowhere Sunday, making nothing but pars when he needed much more to give himself a chance in the HSBC Champions.
From a deep bunker in front of the seventh green, he holed the sand shot for a birdie, and suddenly the game felt easy.
That was the start of an amazing finish for Kaymer, who ran off nine birdies over the last 12 holes to blow past Fredrik Jacobson and a host of stars on his way to a 9-under 63 and a three-shot victory at Sheshan International.
"I didn't miss a lot of golf shots," Kaymer said.
It's a wonder he didn't birdie them all. He missed a 3-foot birdie putt on the ninth, and failed to birdie the par-5 14th and the 16th hole that plays about 288 yards and can be reached with a 3-wood.
Kaymer wound up setting two World Golf Championship records that showed just how well the "Germanator" played on a cool, overcast day in Shanghai. It was the largest comeback (five shots) in the final round, and his 63 was the lowest final round by a winner since this series began in 1999.
"I just played really good golf, and I'm glad that it came together," Kaymer said. "Because the last few weeks, I played good golf but it has not happened yet. And this week, it was nice that it happened here, the World Golf Championship event."
Kaymer, the PGA champion at Whistling Straits last year, became the 10th player to have won a major and a WGC event.
His standard of golf was so high that it nearly shifted attention away from caddie Steve Williams and the racial comment he made about Tiger Woods earlier in the week at a caddies award party.
That still lingered, however. PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and European Tour chief executive George O'Grady issued a statement on behalf of the six major tours that there was "no place for any form of racism is ours or any other sport" and that Williams' comment was "unacceptable in whatever context."
Even so, the tours said Williams' apology for his racial slur against Woods — "It was my aim to shove it up his black a------" — was sufficient enough that they considered the matter closed and declined further comment.
Adam Scott, who has employed Williams since Woods fired the caddie, closed with a 73 and tied for 11th. Scott said he was comfortable with the tours' statement, which matched his own feelings, and that he "absolutely" would keep Williams on the bag.
Kaymer, who finished at 20-under 268 and earned $1.2 million, moved to second on the European Tour money list and to No. 4 in the world ranking. He still has golf left this year, although it sure gave him a different outlook.
He opened his season with an eight-shot win over a strong field at Abu Dhabi, and five weeks later went to No. 1 in the world. But he struggled with his sudden popularity and the demands that came along with it, and Kaymer hasn't looked the same.
That's what made this win so important.
"It was an OK year," he said. "But now it's a good year."
Jacobson was steady until a three-putt bogey from across the green on the par-5 eighth. But after Kaymer ran off four straight birdies on the back nine to catch him and pull ahead, Jacobson answered with a pair of birdies to stay with him.
The Swede just couldn't hold on. He realized Kaymer had made a birdie on the 17th to go one ahead, and not only did Jacobson fail to match him, he pulled his tee shot into the left rough on the 17th and took bogey. That put him three shots behind when Kaymer made one last birdie on the 18th, and Jacobson at that point was content to lay up on the par-5 18th and keep second place to himself.
"I felt I was very much in it," said Jacobson, who closed with a 71. "Obviously, 17 was a bit of a swing after I hit my tee shot. I knew if I was going to have a shot at it, I probably had to get up-and-down to have a realistic chance."
Graeme McDowell finished with two birdies for a 67 to finish alone in third, quite a turnaround from last week in the Andalucia Masters when he failed to break 80 in the last two rounds at Valderrama.
Rory McIlroy made a short birdie on the par-5 18th that gave him a 69 and proved significant. It put him in a three-way tie for fourth, allowing him to move past Lee Westwood to No. 2 in the world.
Westwood, playing in the same group as McIlroy, shot 40 on the front nine and closed with a 74 to tie for 13th with Ian Poulter and Xin-jun Zhang of China, who inspired the gallery by holing a pitch for eagle on the 16th hole to salvage a 72.
Kaymer has experience going low. Sunday in Shanghai reminded him of his first year as a pro when he played a mini-tour in Germany. After a par-bogey start, he played his last 16 holes in 14 under to shoot a 59.
Europe now occupies the first four positions in the world ranking, starting with Luke Donald at No. 1.
Even though he wasn't at Sheshan International — his wife is expecting their second child — Donald came out a big winner.
PGA champion Keegan Bradley had a 72-72 weekend, keeping him from a third win this year that could have changed players' minds about their vote for PGA Tour player of the year. And with McIlroy failing to win, it kept Donald with a $1.4 million lead in Europe as he tries to become the first player to win money titles on the PGA and European tours.