Lee Westwood returns to winner’s circle with victory at Nedbank Golf Challenge

SUN CITY, SOUTH AFRICA - NOVEMBER 11: Lee Westwood of England and Caddie and partner Helen Storey take a selfie photograph after Lee Westwood wins during Day Four of the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Gary Player CC on November 11, 2018 in Sun City, South Africa. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images) Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Lee Westwood returns to winner’s circle with victory at Nedbank Golf Challenge

Euro Tour

Lee Westwood returns to winner’s circle with victory at Nedbank Golf Challenge

Lee Westwood should be used to winning European Tour events after picking up 23 trophies since turning professional in 1993. Yet the Englishman’s 24th reduced him to tears.

Westwood came from three-shots behind Sergio Garcia to win the Nedbank Golf Challenge in Sun City, South Africa. The 45-year-old returned an 8-under 64 to post a 15-under 273 total and defeat Garcia by three shots. Home favorite Louis Oosthuizen finished alone in third, four shots behind at 11 under.

It was Westwood’s first European Tour victory since the 2014 Maybank Malaysian Championship.

“Pretty emotional,” Westwood said. “A little bit relieved. Still got it, I guess. Just nice to do it again under pressure and win against a couple of quality players at the end there. Sergio and Louis were my two nearest challengers. To hit the shots I hit down the stretch, it is just nice to prove it to yourself every now and again.

“Until now, my emotions have felt really under control all day, which is what I’ve been working on. I was just trying to hit fairways and stick to my game plan and hit it in the right places.”

The 10-time Ryder Cupper earned a check for $1.25 million for his first Rolex Series victory. Garcia took home $832,750, while Oosthuizen won $468,250.

Westwood moves 29 spots on the European Tour’s money list to 16th, one spot ahead of Garcia, who rose 13 spots. The Spaniard led in each of the first three rounds but was magnanimous in defeat.

“You have to give credit to Lee,” Garcia said. “I’m thrilled for him. He had a bad Ryder Cup at Hazeltine and he struggled a little bit, and he’s been playing much better this year. He’s been knocking on the door for winning. He played well in Valderrama (Westwood was fifth). I wish I would have won myself, but if not, obviously to see Lee do it is pretty nice.”

Westwood has been something of a fringe player in recent years. Until Sun City he’d only notched 10 European Tour top-10s since his Maybank victory, including a playoff loss this year in the Made in Denmark. The two-time European No. 1 (2000 and 2009) hasn’t finished among the top 10 of the European money list sine 2011 (fifth).

Proof of how far down Europe’s pecking order Westwood had fallen came in this year’s Ryder Cup. He made the trip to Le Golf National near Paris for his 11th consecutive appearance in the match. However, he did it as one of Thomas Bjorn’s vice-captains after 10 consecutive matches as a player. The Englishman is expected to act in a similar role to Padraig Harrington at Whistling Straits two years from now before assuming the captaincy in Rome for the 2022 match.

Westwood had girlfriend Helen Storey caddying for him in Sun City.

“It was great to do it with Helen,” he said. “She’s caddied twice for me this year, and we lost in a playoff in Denmark and we’ve won here.”

The Englishman split with long-time manager Andrew “Chubby” Chandler last year over an alleged financial dispute. Both parties have refused to discuss details. Westwood had been part of Chandler’s International Sports Management group since he turned professional. Westwood is now managed by IMG.

Don’t be surprised if Westwood reaches 25 victories before his European Tour career comes to an end. Gwk

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