In what will go down as a season worthy of the history books, Lee Westwood book-ended his year with moments of magic in the Middle East to end 2020 as both Race to Dubai champion and European Tour Golfer of the Year.
Lee Westwood started his year by making history in the Middle East with the 25th Tour victory of his career in Abu Dhabi and ended it by winning the season-ending Race to Dubai - 20 years after being crowned European Number One for the first time.
“Who’d have thought I’d be here, Lee Westwood, winning the Race to Dubai in 2020 at 47 years of age,” said Westwood, who became the oldest winner in the history of the season-long race.
Here’s how that year unfolded.
25th Tour win in Abu Dhabi
The Englishman entered the final day in the desert with a one shot lead and, while he was briefly caught, he was never passed, carding a 67 to finish on 19 under, two shots ahead of countrymen Matthew Fitzpatrick and Tommy Fleetwood, and Frenchman Victor Perez.
The victory, which saw him become just the third player in Tour history to win in four different decades, was his 44th worldwide.
"I can't believe I'm that old," he had said as it dawned on him that he had won in the 1990s, 2000s, 2010s and 2020s. "It's getting harder.
"It's just nice to come out and keep proving that you've still got it.
"I won my first tournament in 1996 in Sweden. I won that tournament in three different decades and now won here this week. The 20s could be the ones for me.”
Westwood joined an elite group of champions with his second Rolex Series triumph, becoming just the eighth player to win 25 times on the European Tour. The others? Seve Ballesteros (50), Bernhard Langer (42), Tiger Woods (41), Colin Montgomerie (31), Sir Nick Faldo (30), Ian Woosnam (29) and Ernie Els (28).
As it turns out, when he said ‘the 20’s could be the ones for me’, he was right.
A two-time Tournament Host
Westwood made his return following the break in the season by assuming hosting duties at the start of the UK Swing with the Betfred British Masters at Close House.
Hitting a new milestone, the former World Number One became the first player to host an event on two separate occasions, having also hosted the 2017 contest at the same venue.
“I’m delighted to be hosting again,” the ten-time Ryder Cup player had said at the time.
“I did it in 2017, three years ago here at Close House, and I really enjoyed it. I learnt a lot about what goes in to running a golf tournament, so it was interesting to see things from a different perspective."
He ended the week in 70th position following rounds of 70-71-72-79.
A season of consistency
Westwood, who played three more European Tour events before the break in the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrated an impressive run of consistency when the Tour made its return – missing just one cut in 15 appearances.
Following hosting duties at the Betfred British Masters, the Englishman finished in a tie for 34th at the English Championship before six consecutive top 20s, which included a tie for 13th at the U.S. Open, and a top ten at the Estrella Damn Andalucia Masters. A further top 30 came at the Italian Open, before he finished in a tie for 38th at the Masters in November.
Yet he later revealed that since the season’s final Major Championship at Augusta National, he had been suffering with a back injury which saw him withdraw from the inaugural Golf in Dubai Championship.
But there was never any doubt Westwood was going to surrender his record of being the only player to play in every edition of the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.
"If it wasn’t the final event of the year I’d probably take this week off," he had said prior to the start of the tournament.
"But there’s a lot on the line this week. You could beware the injured golfer. We’ll just have to see.”
Once again, he was proved right.
Race to Dubai victory
Westwood entered the week as one of four players who could guarantee the title of European Number One with victory at the DP World Tour Championship, but he would need some extra help from others to top the season-long standings if he didn’t win the tournament.
After rounds of 70, 68 and 68 to sit within one of the lead, what ensued was a dramatic final day at Jumeriah Golf Estates. The Race to Dubai lead changed hands several times during the fourth round,, and it wasn’t until the final group had reached the 18th tee on Sunday that Westwood finally reached the top of that list.
He had birdied two of his last three holes for a final round 68 - which included an up and down from the sand at the last - to finish just one shot behind winner Matthew Fitzpatrick. That position was enough for Westwood to narrowly secure the Harry Vardon Trophy, by just 18 points, for a third time as he became the oldest winner of the Race to Dubai at the age of 47 years, seven months and 20 days .
"They have all been very different,” Westwood reflected on his three titles. “I guess 2000, sort of I was winning a lot, but I was still up and coming. It was only my seventh year on Tour.
"2009, I was honing in on the best player in the world spot, and I needed to win here to win the Race to Dubai, and I managed to do that.
"And then this one, I'm kind of the more mature player on the European Tour now. It wasn't something I set out to do at the start of the year, but it shows the consistency I've shown.”
His third spell at European Number One comes 20 years after he first won the Harry Vardon Trophy in 2000, surpassing the previous record of 15 years held by Seve Ballesteros.
European Tour Golfer of the Year
Westwood soon added a fourth European Tour Golfer of the Year award to his lengthy list of achievements in 2020, having also claimed the honour in 1998, 2000 and 2009.
He was chosen as the 2020 recipient by a panel comprising members of the golf media.
I am very honoured and extremely flattered as I know the competition for the award this year would have been extremely high. Everyone at the European Tour did a tremendous job this year managing to put on a full International schedule under such difficult times👏🏼 https://t.co/IdeG0KITvN— Lee Westwood (@WestwoodLee) December 21, 2020
Lee Westwood said: “I am very honoured and extremely flattered to have been named European Tour Golfer of the Year as I know the competition for the award this year would have been extremely high.
“Thank you to the media for voting for me and also huge congratulations again to everyone at the European Tour who did a tremendous job this year managing to put on a full International schedule under such difficult times.
“I never forget that I am extremely fortunate to do a job which I love, and which has sent me around the world playing in the most amazing places and meeting some wonderful people, so to win this award is very humbling.
“I am looking forward to the 2021 season, the 28th season of my career, which I will start by defending at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.”
Westwood’s latest achievement also saw him equal Colin Montgomerie’s record, who also won the Golfer of the Year award on four occasions.