Saturday 7 December 2019

Westwood waits for crowning moment

Martin Kaymer stands on the Swilkin Bridge at St Andrews yesterday with his Alfred Dunhill Links trophy after claiming his third tournament win in-a-row.
Martin Kaymer stands on the Swilkin Bridge at St Andrews yesterday with his Alfred Dunhill Links trophy after claiming his third tournament win in-a-row.

Kevin Garside at St Andrews

LEE WESTWOOD must wait three more weeks until he is confirmed as Tiger Woods' successor as World No 1. Yet if Martin Kaymer's incredible run of form continues then it could become one of the shortest reigns on record.

Kaymer's victory at the Dunhill Links Championship was his third European Tour win on the spin and propels him up the rankings to fourth. While Kaymer rattled along at six under for the day, including a birdie-birdie finish, Westwood limped along the Fife Coast to a 73 for a share of 11th place.

The outcome, coupled with his withdrawal from the Portuguese Open this week, postpones Westwood's coronation until October 31. Westwood, who has been nursing an injured calf muscle since June, said he will not return to competitive golf until the HSBC Champions event in Shanghai next month at the earliest.

"I was pretty happy with the week," Westwood said. "I have not been at my best physically. I woke up this morning and it was hurting more than the other days, so I don't suppose seven under is too bad."

Westwood's return at the Ryder Cup following an absence of seven weeks proved premature. He claims that the injury to his calf is healed, but not yet strong enough to support tournament play in consecutive weeks. "If it had not been the Dunhill I probably would not even have bothered coming. I have not had a chance to get it healed.

"This is not an easy week, six-hour rounds and only two days off after the Ryder Cup. It got progressively agitated and achy as the week went on. I haven't been able to put in proper practice sessions since the week before the French Open. You won't see me coming back until I can practise fully and do myself justice."

The club that failed Westwood yesterday was the putter. He was flatlining all the way to the St Andrews loop, where he finally saw a birdie drop at the par-three eighth. Three months ago at the Open Championship the tee box boomers were driving the 352-yard ninth. There was nil chance of that yesterday unloading into a withering easterly. A birdie at the 10th was given straight back at the 11th. Further shots went at the 13th, 16th and 17th. Westwood's birdie at the last was decoration.


The significant numbers to crunch were Kaymer's. He is the first since Woods in 2006 to win four tournaments in a year and only the eighth European Tour player to do so. We have to go back 21 years to root out the last European to score a hat-trick; Nick Faldo.

Kaymer brings an impressive redoubt into play on the last day of competition. And when he gets out of position, as he did at the Road Hole 17th, he finds a way out of trouble. The rough that collected over-ambitious drives on this hole three months ago has lost the menace it had at the Open. Had Kaymer rolled his ball into the same spot in July, a JCB would not have helped. Yesterday he managed to dig out an approach left of the green, leaving 40 feet for his ball to traverse to reach the hole.

This he calculated to be a two-stroke manoeuvre, but when the putter glows as hot as his, one is sufficient. "If you would have given me the par I would have given you a lot of money for that. That was more luck than skill."

Not so on the 18th, where his drive found the tarmac crossing. But Kaymer stiffed it to five feet. Ridiculous. "I didn't really know how the ball would react coming off the road. I just wanted to hit it behind the flag, make my two putts and win the tournament," he said.

Kaymer and his Ryder Cup team-mate Graeme McDowell head to the main straight in the Race to Dubai playing a similar schedule, with each player to contest the Andalucia Masters, WGC-HSBC Champions and Barclays Singapore Open. The only difference is that McDowell has added the penultimate event, the UBS Hong Kong Open, to his schedule before the pair square off in the Dubai World Championship, which commences on November 25.

"I am going to have to at least win once, and also have a big five weeks, if I am going to get past Martin," said McDowell after a round of 72 saw him finish on six-under-par.

While McDowell has a week off before heading to Bermuda, Padraig Harrington left for Singapore last night for the Johor Open in Malaysia.

Harrington holed a 30-foot putt for eagle at the par-five, fifth hole en route to a 73 and, like McDowell, felt very jaded after last week's euphoria in Wales.

"I certainly ran out of steam but I'm looking forward to this week out in Malaysia and inspecting the site of the golf course I'm going to design," he said.

Meanwhile, Irish business tycoon Dermot Desmond finally has something in common with close friend and fellow money magnate JP McManus, after Desmond and pro partner Robert Karlsson captured the team event in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

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