Westwood closes in
Lee Westwood took
another giant step closer to knocking Colin Montgomerie from his pedestal
as European number one thanks to his dramatic victory at the Smurfit European
The 26-year-old Worksop
golfer completed his second European Tour victory of the season in the
space of just eight days with a sensational win on a day of high tension
at the K Club.
Westwood, winner of
the Dutch Open last Sunday, began the final day seven shots adrift of stablemate
Darren Clarke who looked to be strolling to victory on home soil.
But as Clarke's brilliant
run of form finally came to an end, Westwood seized his chance with both
hands to fire a superb closing 65 for a 17-under total of 271 and a three-shot
win over Clarke and Australian Peter O'Malley.
Just two weeks ago
Westwood trailed Montgomerie by a huge margin in the European Order of
Merit, but after pocketing the winner's cheque for £226,000 he moved
second in the money list, within striking distance of top spot.
"The Order of
Merit was a realistic proposition no matter what happened this week with
the USPGA and the NEC Invitational coming up and a one million dollars
first prize in Akron, and I'm starting to feel like I can win those kinds
of events," Westwood said.
"But there is
no doubt I've given myself a great chance with the European Open result
and the Order of Merit is far from over."
to thinking the tournament itself may well have been over after he began
the final day seven shots behind an inspired Clarke, who had equalled the
lowest-ever European Tour score with a second-round 60 and then had a hole-in-one
in a third-round 66.
"I thought Darren
was playing well enough to run away with it, I thought the fat lady was
starting to tune her voice," Westwood admitted.
is possible. I came from five shots behind last week and people can shoot
60 round here or 75.
"We are good
friends but there's not a lot I can say to Darren, he'll feel he should
have won, but once someone comes at you it's difficult to focus on what
you're not under any pressure when you're six in front, but you look back
to when Nick Faldo was six behind Greg Norman at the 1996 Masters and you
see it can be done - and the pressure is double in front of your own fans."
At one stage it looked
as though Westwood would win comfortably with eight birdies in 15 holes
to lead O'Malley by two shots with three holes to play as Clarke stumbled
to a closing 75.
Yet there was still
more drama to unfold as Westwood found the water on the 16th to run up
a double-bogey six and allow O'Malley to draw level.
Just minutes later,
however, the exact same fate befell the Australian when his approach to
the same green came up inches short and was adjudged to be still in the
The resulting six
gave Westwood a two-shot cushion again which he increased with a birdie
on the last - leaving O'Malley and Clarke to settle for joint second.
"I didn't play
as well as I wanted, but Lee is a worthy champion," said Clarke.
"You have to
make the score and he did, I didn't. He thoroughly deserves to win but
I can't help feeling I lost it.
"It's going to
take me a long time to get over it. It's one of my most disappointing days
ever. I had a 60, a hole-in-one and still I don't win the championship.
"This would have
meant an awful lot to me. It's been a long time since we've had an Irish
winner at home and hopefully I'll be able to do better next year."
Fourth place was shared
by Italian Costantino Rocca and Sweden's Robert Karlsson, the latter moving
from 20th to 10th in the Ryder Cup standings, the last automatic qualifying
place, knocking Germany's Bernhard Langer out of the top 10.
Coltart moved up to ninth place courtesy of finishing joint 10th while
Open runner-up Jean van de Velde consolidated his eighth place.