Sport Golf

Wednesday 24 January 2018

Westwood poised to replace Tiger at peak

Mark Garrod

St Andrews, the Home of Golf, could today see Lee Westwood crowned as the new world No 1 -- and little-known John Parry as the shock winner of one of Europe's richest events.

Westwood, needing a first or second-place finish in the Dunhill Links Championship to end the latest five-year reign of Tiger Woods, made light of his aching leg to fire a spectacular 66 at Carnoustie yesterday.

It lifted the 37-year-old -- who was close to pulling out on Thursday -- all the way from 32nd place to joint fifth on eight under par.

"I think everybody playing out here would love to be able to say they are the best player in the world," said Westwood. "I think it would be the high point of my career."

But Westwood is still five behind world number 177 Parry, who two weeks after his first European Tour success is now 18 holes away from a £502,000 jackpot. Although he was four ahead overnight and five clear at one stage, the 23-year-old from Yorkshire was happy enough to shoot a 71, also at Carnoustie, and he goes into the final round two in front of German Martin Kaymer and Spaniard Alvaro Quiros.

"I would have taken level par around here -- it's a tough course and it was windy," commented Parry, who had never had a top-eight finish on the circuit until his win.

"It was just a grind out there today and it will be nice to go back to St Andrews. I'm just going to take the same mindset as I had in Paris into the last round."

Kaymer, despite finishing with a bogey like Parry, is probably the favourite for the trophy. The US PGA champion leads this season's money list and has won his last two tournaments, three if you count Europe's triumph at Celtic Manor on Monday.

He and big-hitting Quiros both had 68s, while over at England's Danny Willett moved into fourth spot on nine under with a 67.

Westwood's was the round of the day, however, and given both the weather conditions and his own physical condition it was a remarkable effort.

Told he was not likely to damage his leg further by playing on, however, he added a 72 on the Old Course and yesterday grabbed seven birdies on what is regarded as comfortably the toughest of the three courses.

"I last about nine holes before it starts getting sore," Westwood commented, and rates himself only 50-50 to defend the Portugal Masters title next week.

Because of how the world rankings work he would be guaranteed the world number one spot if he misses that, but getting fit is his priority.

"My main priority is to get into shape for The Masters at Augusta next April," he added.

He would not be the first to go to number one without first winning a major -- Ian Woosnam, Fred Couples and David Duval all did it.

Meanwhile, Monday's match-winning hero Graeme McDowell bogeyed his last two holes to slip seven behind Parry and on Westwood stated: "I would love to see him get to number one. I think it would cap what's been a great year for European golf."

Padraig Harrington is seven under after a three-putt bogey on the last. He thought Westwood might be distracted by the chance to overtake Woods. Then he saw his 66 and added: "Obviously he's just proved me wrong."

Sunday Independent

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