Golf: Westner arrives after long drive

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The Independent Online
WAYNE WESTNER, the longest driver on the European Tour, used his mind as well as his muscle to win the Desert Classic over the Emirates course here yesterday. Westner, 31, from Johannesburg, recorded the most significant victory of his career after defending a lead he established at the half-way stage.

Westner had a chance of winning the Irish Open in Killarney last season. He was two shots clear of the field with two holes to play and subsequently lost a play-off to Nick Faldo. 'I learned a lot from that,' Westner said. A born-again Christian, he spends a lot of time thinking about not thinking. He has a private pilot's licence and flies to the South African bush where he meditates for two to three weeks at a time. 'I watch the animals,' Westner said. 'They show how we were designed to be. You learn an immense amount about yourself.'

Westner, who held a one-stroke lead after the third round, shot 70 yesterday and won by two strokes from his compatriot, Retief Goosen, and by three from Seve Ballesteros and Barry Lane. The season in South Africa starts before Christmas and when their players join the European Tour there is no trace of rust. Westner, who won pounds 66,660, was second and fourth in events in his home country this year and Goosen won a tournament in South Africa last year.

Westner, who studies karate because he believes it helps him with the golf swing, has been long and accurate throughout the week and when he made the odd mistake yesterday he managed to recover. He did not have a bogey on his card. 'I was very conservative,' he said. 'I didn't take a lot of chances. It's a difficult course on which to make birdies and I thought that if I could shoot 69 they would have to catch me.'

They could not. Goosen, who won the European Tour qualifying school last November, shot 68, Ballesteros 69 and Lane 70. Ballesteros, who won this tournament last year before his form deserted him, parred every hole on the front nine and had four birdies coming home but a bogey five on the 17th ended his challenge. 'Believe it or not I think I played better here than 12 months ago,' Ballesteros said. 'I was a little bit surprised at how well I managed myself on the course. I am very proud of myself.' Then he had a brilliant thought. 'I finished eight shots better than Nick Faldo,' he said, raising his fist.

Faldo had a final round of 70 and was joint 26th at three under par for the championship. His worst finish on the European Tour last year was 23rd in the Volvo Masters. Ballesteros and Lane won pounds 22,520 each and for the latter it increases his lead at the top of the Ryder Cup points table. A double-bogey six at the eighth yesterday knocked him off course. His tee-shot flew to the right, his ball landed in a bush and from there he could only chip out sideways. When he finally arrived on the green he took three putts.

Westner, with birdies at the third and the 10th, consolidated his lead and he could afford to adopt a safety-first policy as he headed for home. He was once coached by Faldo's teacher, David Leadbetter, but in recent years has turned to the Scotsman, Bob Torrance. In 1988 he left the European Tour and, for a while, abandoned professional golf. 'I cried to God for help,' he said. 'my priorities have changed from golf, golf, golf to God, family and golf. Five years ago my belief in myself was pulverised. Now I've got my life together. If you're not mentally prepared for this tour you haven't got a chance in hell.' Last year Westner's 32-year-old brother committed suicide. 'It made my faith a lot stronger,' Westner said. 'The only thing that can stop you is you.'

DUBAI DESERT CLASSIC (Emirates Club, Dubai) Leading final scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 274 W Westner (SA) 69 66 69 70. 276 R Goosen (SA) 70 66 72 68. 277 S Ballesteros (Sp) 71 68 69 69; B Lane 70 69 68 70. 278 M Davis 72 65 70 71; A Forsbrand (Swe) 73 66 68 71; P McGinley 65 70 70 73; 281 E Els (SA) 71 72 67 71. 282 P Hall 69 73 71 69; D Gilford 71 72 69 70; J Haeggman (Swe) 69 71 71 71; M Lanner (Swe) 73 69 69 71; P Baker 70 72 69 71; C Rocca (It) 73 69 67 73; R Rafferty 69 66 73 74; S Struver (Ger) 69 70 69 74. 283 G Brand Jnr 72 72 71 68; P Way 70 69 74 70; C Montgomerie 73 70 67 73. 284 P Mitchell 71 70 74 69; J Hawkes (SA) 70 75 69 70; J Payne 69 73 71 71; P Broadhurst 72 70 70 72; C Mason 71 73 68 72; R Claydon 66 73 71 74. 285 B Malley (US) 72 72 73 68; N Faldo 70 71 74 70; M Poxon 72 71 72 70; R Chapman 69 70 75 71; R Alvarez (Arg) 72 71 71 71; G Day (US) 74 70 69 72; P Affleck 69 73 70 73; H-P Thuel (Ger) 69 72 70 74.

EUROPEAN RYDER CUP POINTS TABLE (1pt for every pounds 1 won): 1 B Lane (Eng) 241,978.95pts; 2 S Lyle (Sco) 172,109.01; 3 C Montgomerie (Sco) 155,425.94; 4 B Langer (Ger) 154,944.34; 5 J Spence (Eng) 146,220.15; 6 M A Jimenez (Sp) 140,440.09; 7 N Faldo (Eng) 136,867.50; 8 M Roe (Eng) 129,931.27; 9 M James (Eng) 117,082.41; 10 S Richardson (Eng) 99,921.00; 11 A Forsbrand (Swe) 91,513.54; 12 R Karlsson (Swe) 90,832.50; 13 I Woosnam (Wal) 85,932.71; 14 J Payne (Eng) 76,889.01; 15 D Feherty (N Irl) 75,010.00.

EUROPEAN TOUR ORDER OF MERIT: 1 W Westner (SA) pounds 66,660; 2 R Goosen (SA) pounds 44,440; 3 M James (Eng) pounds 43,660; 4 P Broadhurst (Eng) pounds 26,210; 5= B Lane (Eng), S Ballesteros (Sp) pounds 22,520; 7 G J Brand (Eng) pounds 21,710; 8 R Rafferty (N Irl) pounds 18,455; 9 P McGinley (Irl) pounds 17,200.83; 10 M Davis (Eng) pounds 16,675.83.