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Lee Westwood aims for Order of Merit title

Lee Westwood said he hoped his near-miss at the U.S. Open would propel him to success in the French Open starting on Thursday.

Westwood, who led at Torrey Pines with nine holes to go but missed a place in the playoff with Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate by one shot, said his performance in San Diego had proved a major inspirationn.

“I must admit it was very disappointing not to have gone one shot better and at least been in the playoff,” Westwood told Reuters.

“But at least going so close was a great boost for my confidence and something I can use for the rest of the season.

“I haven’t been too hard on myself because I didn’t do anything wrong - just that things didn’t go my way on the final day.”

The 35-year-old Englishman, back in the world’s top 20 at number 17, is looking to repeat his feat of eight years ago when he won Europe’s order of merit.

Claiming the 666,660 euro ($1.04 million) at the event at Le Golf National, Versailles, which starts on Thursday, could take him from third place on the money-list past the current leader, Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez.

“I’m ready for The French Open and looking forward to the coming weeks on the way to (the British Open at) Royal Birkdale, especially now that I have wrapped up my Ryder Cup spot so early in the season,” added Westwood.

“I can concentrate on other things - not least the order of merit. It would be very nice to win it again after succeeding in 2000.”

The absence of Woods, who announced he would need reconstructive knee surgery after claiming his 14th major in California last week, will not change Westwood’s preparation for the British Open.

“You can’t approach the Open any differently just because Tiger won’t be there. It will still be a top quality field.

“But given the way I played at Torrey Pines, I feel a lot more confident in myself going into Royal Birkdale. And it will be great to play a major in front of a home crowd because this is the only chance we get to do that all year.”

Victory in Versailles may not be an easy task for Westwood, though, with Jimenez, who has virtually sealed his Ryder Cup berth and Robert Karlsson, fourth behind Westwood at Torrey Pines and above the Englishman on the European order of merit, in the French field.

Last year’s U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera and last week’s BMW International Open winner Martin Kaymer also line up.

England’s Ian Poulter returns to action after missing the event in Germany with a wrist injury he suffered in the U.S. Open.

This week’s tournament is the final one to count for the British Open mini order of merit, with Australian Scott Strange and Chilean Felipe Aguilar currently holding the two qualifying positions.


June 25, 2008

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