Dubai glory for Westwood
Lee Westwood clinched the inaugural Race to Dubai crown in style as he shot a final round of 64 to win the Dubai World Championship.
Last Updated: 23/11/09 8:58am
Lee Westwood clinched the inaugural Race to Dubai crown in style as he shot a flawless final round of 64 to win the Dubai World Championship by a thumping six-shot margin.
Westwood headed into the season-ending tournament knowing he needed a big performance to overhaul Rory McIlroy in the Race to Dubai standings and produced just that as he fired a course record at the Greg Norman-designed Earth Course on Sunday.
McIlroy himself carded a final round of 67 to finish in third behind the winner and Ross McGowan, but he could do nothing to stop an inspired Westwood who ensured he ended the season as European number one for a second time following his Order of Merit triumph in 2000.
The 36-year-old Englishman not only picked up $1.25 million for his victory this week, but also an additional bonus of $1.5 million for clinching the first-ever Race to Dubai title.
Westwood headed into the final round with a two-shot lead over playing partner McGowan, but just as importantly a five-shot advantage over McIlroy who had to catch his rival to secure the European number one crown.
However, it quickly became apparent that was a forlorn hope as the Englishman made a stunning start to his final round.
After early birdies at the second and third, Westwood picked up further shots at the fifth, sixth and seventh to hit the turn in just 31 shots in what was a quite supreme display of shot-making.
McIlroy opened with eight straight pars and by the time he finally produced a birdie at the ninth he found himself some nine shots behind the runaway leader.
But the 20-year-old did hit his stride over the back nine and five birdies in the space of eight holes served not only to lift him into third place but also underlined the hugely impressive strides he has made this season.
A bogey at the last meant he eventually finished three shots behind McGowan (68) who produced a run of five successive birdies between the 12th and 16th to secure the runner-up spot on 17-under-par.
But that was still a long way adrift of Westwood who added further birdies at the tenth, 13th and 15th to cap a quite superb closing round, ending on 23-under.
An emotional Westwood acknowledged the victory had capped the best day of his stellar career as he told Sky Sports: "I played fantastic, 66 and 64, that's going to take some catching. To be fair that's about as good as I've ever played.
"It gives me a lot of confidence to know you can play like that under this kind of pressure. It's definitely the biggest day of my golfing career to date."
"Commiserations to Rory, but he's 20 years old, I can't even remember being 20 years old, and he'll have many more chances!"
Asked of his ambitions for next season, he added: "Hopefully more, maybe a major in the future. But when you see some of the young players coming through like Rory and Ross, I've got to keep improving. It's going to be tough."
Despite his ultimate disappointment, McIlroy conceded he had enjoyed a fantastic year, stating: "It's been a great season, I've no complaints.
"It's been a great stepping stone and I'm really looking forward to next year."
Padraig Harrington shot a closing 68 to finish in a tie for fourth alongside Geoff Ogilvy (67) on 14-under, while Swede Alexander Noren claimed sixth just a stroke further back.