Wednesday 20 November 2019

Flying Westwood silences critics

World No 1 Lee Westwood holds the winning trophy after capturing the Ballantine's Championship in South Korea. Photo: AP
World No 1 Lee Westwood holds the winning trophy after capturing the Ballantine's Championship in South Korea. Photo: AP

William S Callahan

Lee Westwood fortified his position at the top of the world rankings and silenced American sniping yesterday as he tacked victory at the Ballantine's Championship onto last week's win in Jakarta.

There had been further calls in the US for a change in the world points system after the Englishman leapfrogged Martin Kaymer back to the top of the ladder by finishing at the head of a relatively modest field at the Indonesian Masters.

Much was once again made of the one big gap on Westwood's resume, his failure to win a Major, by commentators who plainly find it hard to comprehend the simple logic which underpins the necessarily complex world points system.

Golf's No 1 is the player who has performed consistently well against the world's other top professionals over a period of two years.

For those who find this concept difficult to grasp, pictures of Westwood holding a trophy won in an event which included some names even they may find familiar, like Dustin Johnson or, maybe, Miguel Angel Jimenez, might help ease their angst.

Westwood's satisfaction at winning back-to-back was unmistakable. "It's good to show everyone why you are in that position," said the world No 1. "And I think I did that today."

He finished one stroke ahead of Jimenez at the end of a long day in which many in the Ballantine's field first had to complete their storm-delayed third rounds.

Westwood, who went into those final 18 holes three shy of the lead shared on 10-under by Jimenez, Rhys Davies and Alexander Noren, claimed his 22nd European Tour victory with a flawless round of 67.

After landing his fifth birdie on 18 to set the target on 12-under par, the 38-year-old had to watch from the locker room as Jimenez failed with a brave bid over the final three holes to find the birdie that would have forced the tournament into sudden-death.

"It was nerve-wracking sitting there watching people play," Westwood admitted. "I've won two weeks in a row before, but it's still very special. It's tough to come down off a win and get yourself refocused, but the more experience you get, the easier it is to do it."

Jimenez, who finished alone in second on 11-under after his closing 71, was quick to congratulate Westwood, who revealed they'd enjoyed dinner together on Saturday night.

"We had a nice bottle of red and as we parted, I said 'see you in the play-off tomorrow'," Westwood said. "Miguel and I have been friends for a long time, but thank goodness he didn't make a birdie -- he beat me in Dubai the last time we met in a play-off."

Ireland's Shane Lowry, Gareth Maybin and Damien McGrane began the long trek from South Korea to Barcelona for this week's Open de Espana at El Prat buoyed by decent performances which yielded a share of 13th place on five-under par and a cheque for €29,046 each.

McGrane's hopes of a second European Tour victory had been stoked by a superb opening 64 and even if his putter went a little cold at the weekend as he posted rounds of 74 and 71, there was high promise in the Kells man's best finish of the season.

Lowry, meanwhile, took a significant step back on the road to recovery from last winter's broken wrist and said of his final-round 72 at Blackstone: "I dropped a couple of silly shots on the way in today, but there are so many positives to be taken from this week."

Maybin should draw inspiration from his bogey-free final-round 69.

All five Irish competitors made the cut in Korea, but Paul McGinley and Michael Hoey endured a frustrating weekend.

McGinley finished tied 58th (€6,284) on five-over after rounds of 78 and 74, while a brace of 78s left Belfast man Hoey in a share of 70th (€3,662).

Irish Independent

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