SUN CITY, South Africa (Reuters) – Lee Westwood bagged five birdies on his back nine to storm to victory in the Nedbank Golf Challenge at the Gary Player Country Club on Sunday, his first title on the European Tour for four years.
FILE PHOTO – Golf – European Tour – British Masters – Walton Heath Golf Club, Walton-on-the-Hill, Britain – October 12, 2018 England’s Lee Westwood during the second round Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers
Westwood carded a faultless 64 that included an eagle and six birdies for a tournament total of 15 under par, three shots ahead of overnight leader Sergio Garcia.
The Spaniard, who had led from the first round into Sunday, could manage only a 70 as his two-shot overnight advantage was swallowed up by a magnificent finish from Westwood.
The Englishman secured a 24th European Tour title, the eighth most of all time, and a third at the Nedbank Golf Challenge after previous wins in 2010, when he was ranked the number one golfer in the world, and 2011.
“I’m a bit emotional,” a tearful Westwood told reporters. “You are never sure if you can do it again. And I needed to.
“I’m getting old, I did one for the old men today. You reach 45 and don’t know what to expect. But I’ve always felt comfortable playing this golf course. This one is very special.”
Westwood, who took home a first prize of $1.25 million, had girlfriend Helen Storey carrying his bags during the tournament after giving long-time caddy Billy Foster the week off.
“She’s caddied for me three times this year and I’ve lost in a play-off and won, so maybe I have a decision to make,” he joked.
Key to Westwood’s success on Sunday was accuracy off the tee on to the narrow fairways, but also a red-hot putter, especially on the back nine.
“I was seeing the lines and I’ve working on a few things with my putting, just trying to relax and have confidence in it,” he said.
“To give yourself those birdie chances is key here and I hit a lot of fairways. The seven iron into 17 was one of the best shots I have ever hit, definitely in the top three.”
He started the day three shots behind Garcia, with home favorite Louis Oosthuizen (69) also in contention.
The latter proved Westwood’s biggest challenger through the round until three dropped shots over the last four holes saw him fade from contention.
An eagle on the par-five second hole drew Westwood level with Garcia, who had bogeyed the first, early in the round.
But it was five birdies in seven holes between the 11th and 17th that saw him sprint away from his rivals.
Reporting By Nick Said; editing by Clare Fallon