Friday, 19 March 2010
Lee Westwood's renaissance continued apace at St Andrews when the English Ryder Cup player captured his second title in the space of a month by winning the dunhill links championship by a shot from South African Ernie Els in front of a record 14,620 crowd at the Old Course.

His closing round of five under par 67 at the Home of Golf gave him an aggregate score of 21 under par 267 – after opening the tournament with 70 at Carnoustie, then a 68 at St Andrews followed by his brilliant course record 62 at Kingsbarns in round three that was finished off by that sensational albatross.

Those figures all add up to a victorious scoreline, and a winner’s cheque for €705,093 that places the 30 year old at fourth place in the Volvo Order of Merit and at the top of the Ryder Cup European Points List.

“It’s just incredible really – it’s been some turnaround for me since the start of the year and after the past three years with winning the BMW last month and now here and I’m delighted to have won again,” he said.

“I was quite emotional after the BMW in Germany and I’m quite emotional now, but not as bad as I was then. But this is a really special victory. Everyone wants to win at St Andrews – the Home of Golf – it’s a dream and I’m really pleased.

“I only had one bogey all week and it came at the second hole today but that probably turned out to be a good thing because sometimes when you’re not making bogeys you can forget to make birdies as well. And I birdied the third straight after dropping my shot today and that really got me going again.

“I had about three clubs in my mind for my second shot at 17 and they were all probably the right clubs. I had a funny feeling that Ernie had birdied 17 because we heard the cheers but then I didn’t think he’d birdie 18 as well.

“But I hit it on the green at 17 to about 30 feet and just took my two putts then it was the same at 18. That’s what all the hard work over the last three years was all about for me – to come down that 18th fairway in that position so why not enjoy it.

“I played as well here as I have done in a long time this week and being in the lead and leading from the front came back to me quite quickly – a bit like riding a bike I suppose. Some people are comfortable leading from the front and others aren’t and I’m just fortunate to be one of the ones who is comfortable with it.”

Els closed his tournament with a brilliant birdie/birdie finish over the hallowed St Andrews turf – taming the notorious road hole with a six iron from 178 yards to 35 feet before sinking the putt.

The world number two followed that up with what he described as “one of the best chips I’ve ever played” at the 18th, to finish with a glorious 64 that gave him a 20 under par total of 268 and a prize of €470,059 that consolidated his position as the number one player on The European Tour with his total earnings on the Volvo Order of Merit reaching €2,897,535.

“To birdie 17 was big,” said the South African. “I had a funny lie and you don’t want to try and hit it in low there so I just thought I would go with what I had and take enough club. Obviously you want to get it over the bunker so I hit it long, just to give it some steam in order to get the hole and I had the right line.

“Then, when the putt went in I thought ‘yes big Ern!’ It was at least 35 feet. I wasn’t really feeling that good after yesterday’s finish even though I played really well the last three days but I feel I made up for that today.

“At 18 I then had the toughest pitch I had all week and it was one of the best I’ve hit in my career. I’ve got to put that in my top three or four pitches ever – especially with the situation and where the flag was. I actually wanted to play safe the first time but when I went back to the ball I though ‘no, lets have a go’.”

Els’s 64 was special, but Englishman Brian Davis’s 62 was something else – setting a new course record over the Old Course terrain. Davis had eight birdies and an eagle two at the 314 yard, par four 12th hole where he chipped in from 40 yards.

Davis, who finished in a five way tie for sixth place on 16 under – one stroke behind Darren Clarke and Maarten Lafeber and two behind Raphael Jacquelin – was suitably honoured to have beaten the previous mark of 63 held by Scotsmen Paul Lawrie and Colin Montgomerie and now holds the best score over the most famous golfing venue on the planet.

“It’s great to have the course record at the Home of Golf. Lee Westwood took away my record of 65 at Kingsbarns yesterday so it’s nice to get this one today. I just wanted to shoot as low as I could and I just caught fire. If there was ever a day to break 60 this was it.”

The wonderful story of Westwood’s continued renaissance was finished off perfectly by the father and son team of Sam and Daniel Torrance scooping the team prize. The Ryder Cup Captain and his 15 year old boy had a brilliant aggregate team score of 37 under par to squeeze out Robert Jan Derksen and Pieter Van Doorne by three shots.

“It was incredible,” said Torrance senior. “Obviously being my son I feel pride and joy but what he did this week was incredible. For a 15 year old – I could never have gone out there and teed it up at 15. He was cool as a cucumber and played like God every day!

“He shot 73, 70, 68, 67. I mean, fantastic golf for anyone. Ten under par. Of course I knew his potential. This week proved a lot more to me. I always believed in him. This week he showed me it. He showed me in the past in flashes, but to do it under the spotlight this week. I give you an example, the 15th at Kingsbarns is a very, very tough par three off the back tee. The pin was back right and I tried to knock it left and keep it out of the water and Daniel says please let me go for the pin and he fired a five iron 20 feet right of the pin. A fantastic shot. He has tremendous confidence and ability. He has all the aspects of the game and has a huge future ahead of him.”
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