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Westwood closes out Order of Merit title

While Tiger Woods was making his customary donation to the lake-ball basket in Valderrama's pro shop - many more visits to this course and we can expect Nike to be bringing out their new 'Frogman' range - Lee Westwood left Spain last night with altogether fonder memories of the notorious par-five 17th.

The 17th is Valderrama's signature hole, and Westwood looked like signing for something a good bit nastier than a bogey six after carving his drive into the kind of jungle in which you might expect to find David Bellamy, a couple of pygmy tribes and the fossilised remains of a 16th-century Spanish explorer, but probably not your ball. However, Westwood not only found the ball, but a very kind man crouching next to it by the name of John Paramor.

It was in his same capacity of match referee, deep in more trees on Valderrama's 18th hole, that Paramor once had an interesting discussion with Severiano Ballesteros as to which kind of creature was responsible for a hole close to his ball. In what might seem a curious rule to some, an animal that burrows allows a free drop, while an animal that doesn't burrow, does not.

Ballesteros only just stopped short of bursting into a chorus of Bright Eyes in his efforts to convince Paramor that the culprit was a rabbit, but in the absence of hard evidence, such as a dropping, or a half-eaten lettuce leaf, the flinty-hearted official ruled against him.

Lee Westwood holding the TPC Trophy one of his winning six of 2000. Allsport.

Yesterday, though, Paramor ruled that Westwood's ball was being interfered with by a drain, an extremely small one it must be said. However, rules are rules, and by getting relief without penalty, Westwood finally got away with a six.

Whether he would otherwise have retained sufficient composure to hang on to his round and pip Darren Clarke to the European Order of Merit is a moot point, but in all probability he would have. Westwood is a steely competitor and a worthy successor after seven consecutive years of Colin Montgomerie.

The new European No 1 may not quite be as entertaining as Monty, as it is difficult to know from his deportment whether Westwood is heading for a 65 or an 86. Even a character as unflappable as Paramor would get on the walkie-talkie to inform his next of kin before heading into the woods to deliver a ruling on one of Monty's balls, but galleries following Westwood around are in considerably less danger of being scalded by escaping steam.

When yesterday's final round began, Montgomerie had the unusual distinction of being the skinniest of the three Order of Merit contenders; judging by the way Westwood has maintained his shape since his marriage to Andrew Coltart's sister, you'd suspect she's a pretty good cook.

He certainly hits the ball a long way but is otherwise, dare one say, a little dull to watch. There are no highs and lows, just polite acknowledgement to the crowd, and the odd shrug when things go wrong. He politely admonished a photographer for clicking on his back-swing, whereas the same offence with Monty carries the risk of emergency surgery for wide-angle lens extraction.

At the par-five 11th, a driver off the fairway made a horrible noise and barely rose above shin height, but the pro golfer is so adept at manufacturing shots that it could well have been deliberate. His caddie wasn't sure, but nodded approvingly just in case. Westwood handed back the club and - expression still neutral - said: "Bloomin' crap."

 

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