GOLF: Westwood in 'dented trophy' dispute

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The Independent Online
LEE WESTWOOD yesterday reacted to criticism from the Australian Golf Union that he returned his replica of the Australian Open trophy broken and dented. Colin Phillips, the AGU's executive director, said that an explanation was sought from Westwood's manager, Andrew Chandler, after the pounds 8,500 trophy had to be repaired by a Melbourne jeweller.

Westwood is not defending the title in Adelaide this week, having decided to accept an invitation to the Million Dollar Challenge at Sun City in South Africa. From there he commented: "The trophy was returned on 21 September and duly signed for by the Australian Golf Union as being received in perfect condition. I am surprised that two days prior to the Million Dollar Challenge and the Australian Open they have decided to air their grievances."

According to Phillips, the cup was broken at the base and had dents in the top when officials opened its shipping box.

The AGU also claim that they learnt indirectly that Westwood was not defending his Australian Open crown. On that Westwood countered: "I withdrew on 2 September explaining I had been invited to play in the Million Dollar Challenge with the world's top 12 golfers. It is a terrific opportunityand I believe that any other professional would have made the same decision."

It is not the first time this year that Westwood has upset organisers. He pulled out of the Western Open in Chicago the week after the US Open in June, and he scratched from the MCI Classic in South Carolina the week after the Masters in April.

In Sun City, Westwood is trying to finish his season with a third successive victory, having won twice in Japan last month to take his tally of wins this year to seven. Colin Montgomerie, Tiger Woods and Ernie Els are also in the field for the richest prize in golf - around pounds 625,000.