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Westwood under pressure at Slaley Hall

Last year's European number one Lee Westwood is under intense pressure in the rankings following Retief Goosen's dramatic playoff win at the U.S. Open.

Westwood goes into this week's latest European Tour event, the Great North Open at Slaley Hall in the north east of England, trailing the new rankings leader Goosen by 72 places.

The South African picked up a cheque of $900,000 dollars at Southern Hills, Tulsa, on Monday for beating Mark Brooks, to earn his first major title.

He leads second-placed Angel Cabrera of Argentina, tied seventh in Tulsa, by $400,000.

Westwood, who will start favourite when the Great North gets underway on Thursday, missed the cut at Southern Hills and his earnings this year amount to a 10th of Goosen's. The South African will not taking part this week. Westwood won six titles last season but has earned only $110,000 this year after making swing changes and taking time off for the birth of his first child.

The 28-year-old Briton won at Slaley Hall last year when the tournament was known as the European Grand Prix and will be looking to claim the $188,000 first prize this time.

The main threat in a field weakened by U.S. absentees could come from Andrew Oldcorn, a man on a mission.

Oldcorn, lying seventh in the Ryder Cup table, will virtually seal his place in the team if he takes the first prize.

Oldcorn was not overhauled in the Cup table at the U.S. Open and Colin Montgomerie and Sergio Garcia, both absent at Slaley Hall, lie outside the top 10 automatic slots.

Montgomerie is anchored in 12th, while Garcia moved three spots to 13th with his tied 12th place in Tulsa.

Slaley Hall, one of the venues in the contest to stage the 2009 Ryder Cup, has a place in Goosen's heart.

He won the first of his four European Tour titles at the course in 1996, finishing second behind the then all-conquering Montgomerie the following year.


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