Rolex Series

Westwood claims third Harry Vardon Trophy in Dubai

Lee Westwood has been crowned European Number One for a third time, 20 years after he first lifted the Harry Vardon Trophy.

Lee Westwood

The Englishman won the European Tour Order of Merit in 2000 but within three years he was outside the top 250 in the Official World Golf Ranking before mounting one of the game's great comebacks.

His victory at the 2009 DP World Tour Championship, Dubai saw him crowned the inaugural winner of the Race to Dubai and the following year he completed his incredible recovery by rising to World Number One.

He found himself outside the top 100 again as he went four years without a European Tour victory but he broke that drought with a maiden Rolex Series win at the 2018 Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player.

A tearful Westwood admitted after that victory there were times when he was not sure he would ever win again but he claimed a 25th European Tour triumph and second Rolex Series title earlier this season at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA.

That gave him a chance of a Harry Vardon Trophy hat-trick at the 2020 DP World Tour Championship, Dubai and after finishing second to Matthew Fitzpatrick at Jumeirah Golf Estates, he is Europe's best once again at 47 years of age.

“It’s been 20 years since I sat there at Valderrama and finished second in the American Express Championship to win the Volvo Order of Merit as it was back then," he said. "I won here in 2009 to win the Race to Dubai and now I’ve finished second to win it today.

"They have all been very different. 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.

"The motivation's never changed, really. I get to get up each day and do the job I love. I've always wanted to be a golfer and I don't want it to end.

Lee Westwood

"So I'm prepared to keep working hard and put myself in the line of fire and try and get into contention in tournaments. It's where I'm most comfortable and what I love doing. I love the work away from the course and the gym and on the range, the hard work that people don't see, I love that. I don't need to motivate myself very often."

Westwood's 2020 season started with that win in Abu Dhabi and he also achieved a top 25 at the WGC-Mexico Championship before Covid-19 led to the season going into hiatus.

The Worksop native then played a big part in the European's Tour return to action, hosting the Betfred British Masters to kick off the UK Swing and playing in three of those events.

He finished in the top 20 at the U.S. Open Championship and back to back Rolex Series events to keep racking up the Race to Dubai points, and his consistency was shown by the fact he had one missed cut in 15 appearances.

Come this week and he knew that he would need a good performance to take the big prize and, just as he has done so many times, Westwood duly delivered to beat Fitzpatrick by just 27.8 points over the season, despite suffering from a back injury.

Players who have won the Harry Vardon Trophy three or more times since 1972

PlayerYears won
Peter Oosterhuis1972, 1973, 1974
Seve Ballesteros1976, 1977, 1978, 1986, 1988, 1991
Sandy Lyle1979, 1980, 1985
Colin Montgomerie1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2005
Rory McIlroy2012, 2014, 2015
Lee Westwood2000, 2009, 2020

"The two lads in the physio unit, Nigel and Rob, have done an incredible job on me," he said. "They have stretched me in places I didn't think I had and they have given me a massage twice a day. I'm very appreciative to the job they have done on my back this week.

"I knew I needed to go out there and shoot a good round today. I played great as I have done all week. I missed a load of chances today but hit a wedge to two feet on 16 and made a great par on 17 and then made a great four at the last when I needed to.

"Just little things like that just keep proving that I can do it when it matters, still got it.

"I went out trying to win the tournament. That was the best and the simplest thing to try and do. I figured I needed to finish 15 under to win the tournament.

"Not really any thoughts of the Race to Dubai until I got into the scoring tent afterwards and looked at it all and realised I've still got a chance."

Lee Westwood

The coronavirus pandemic saw the Ryder Cup pushed back to 2021 and Westwood, who served as Vice Captain in 2018, is now looking at the prospect of an 11th playing appearance.

"I'd love to play again, obviously," he said. "It beats watching. There's obviously a lot less pressure watching the lads being Vice Captain.

"If I qualify for the team then I'm clearly good enough, and that's the way I'm going to play it. I can still turn up to the biggest tournaments and compete as I proved at the start of the year in Abu Dhabi; the U.S. Open where I bogeyed the last two holes and, if I hadn't, I'd have finished fifth, and here."

Another thing the pandemic saw postponed was Westwood's wedding to caddie and fiancée Helen, and he has hailed her presence on the bag in his resurgence."

"She's a calming influence on me," he said. "We talk about things away from golf. That's kind of our thing. We keep me focusing on golf as little as possible, really, especially when I'm out on the golf course.

"She gives me a reality slap every now and again and that's the kind of thing I need, and not to get carried away and blow it out of proportion. We obviously get along very well and it's a nice environment to play golf in."

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