Lee Westwood made further strides in his bid to tie the all-time European Ryder Cup appearance record after taking second place at THE PLAYERS Championship to make it back-to-back runner up finishes on the PGA TOUR.
Should the reigning Race to Dubai Champion make it into Pádraig Harrington’s European Team at Whistling Straits in September, he would tie Sir Nick Faldo’s record of 11 Ryder Cup appearances and move one behind Phil Mickelson’s all-time Ryder Cup appearance record (12).
Rounds of 69-66-68-72 at TPC Sawgrass saw the resurgent Westwood finish one shot behind American Major winner and 2018 Ryder Cup player Justin Thomas to move up three places on the World Points List and into the top automatic qualifying position on 211.29 points.
The 47 year old was leading by two at the close of play on Saturday to set up what seemed to be another colossal battle with 2020 U.S. Open Champion and 2018 Ryder Cup rookie Bryson DeChambeau, who pipped him to the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard title the previous week.
However, the pair failed to get off to the best of starts, with both finding the water after wayward drives on the fourth hole, as Thomas clicked into gear.
Westwood showed steely composure at the 14th hole when he holed an eight-foot birdie putt to regain a share of the lead, however an unfortunate three putt at the famously challenging 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass saw him fall two strokes behind Thomas – the leader in the clubhouse.
A closing birdie capped off another impressive performance from Westwood as he took solo second place to move inside the top 20 in the Official World Golf Ranking and in turn boosts his chances of an 11th Ryder Cup appearance.
Paul Casey also jumped three places on the World Points List and now sits in sixth position, and the second automatic place, with 165.36 points after a tied fifth finish in Florida.
The four-time Ryder Cup player fired rounds of 73-67-67-70 to continue his consistent start to a year which started with the capture of his 15th European Tour title at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in January.
The eight-way tie for ninth position at THE PLAYERS Championship included a host of European hopefuls including 2016 Team Europe rookie Matthew Fitzpatrick, Europe’s all-time leading points scorer Sergio Garcia, Victor Perez – who is looking to make his Ryder Cup debut at Whistling Straits – and 2018 Ryder Cup winner Jon Rahm.
As it stands Tyrrell Hatton (4,501.44 points), Tommy Fleetwood (4,433.06 points), Rahm (3,845.90 points) and Rory McIlroy (3,789.53 points) fill the automatic qualification places on the European Points List.
Meanwhile, Westwood (211.29 points), Casey (165.26 points), Viktor Hovland (161.44), Fitzpatrick (154.76 points) and Perez (153.17 points) currently occupy the crucial World Points List spots.