Golf: Westwood on his way

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The Independent Online
LEE WESTWOOD, who has moved past his boyhood hero and Ryder Cup partner, Nick Faldo, to become England's leading player, hopes to continue his successful run in America at the expense of winning the Order of Merit in Europe.

Westwood, who tomorrow makes his first appearance in the US Players' Championship, the biggest event of the year to date, has yet to finish outside the top-30 in six tournaments in the States. His latest was the Bay Hill Invitational last week, where the 24-year-old finished 13th. Yesterday, Westwood set off for his first look at the Stadium Course at the TPC at Sawgrass with Ernie Els. The practice round was set up over a beer to celebrate the South African's victory on Sunday night.

Next week Westwood plays in the New Orleans Classic before the US Masters, where he was 24th on his debut last year. He will then play at least six more events over here, including the US Open, the USPGA and the World Series. "I want to play as muchas I can over here," said Westwood, who has had to change his plans since Els took a commanding lead at the top of the European money list.

"I'm not playing enough in Europe to worry over being No1 on the Order of Merit. My goals have changed since the beginning of the year. The more you think about the World Championships events starting next year, the less being No 1 in Europe means."

At 20th on the world rankings, Westwood is now three places higher than Faldo. "When someone is your childhood idol you notice when you go past them on the rankings," he said.

The defending champion, Steve Elkington, had to pull out of the $4m (pounds 2.5m) event, having not recovered from surgery for a sinus problem last Thursday, but 46 of the top-50 in the world will be on show.

l Andrew Coltart, the Scot who won the Qatar Masters earlier this month, and his partner, Simon Norman, lost to Ian Higgins and Simon McCarthy at the second extra hole in the first round of the Sunningdale Foursomes yesterday. They were never behind

until the final putt.