Golf: Westwood's wager looking good

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AS A SPECIAL offer to the players in the Victor Chandler British Masters, the sponsors discounted the tax from any bets they wished to place on the tournament. Many went for the 5-2 on a victory for either of Europe's leading players, Lee Westwood and Colin Montgomerie. Westwood himself went for the 7-1 on them finishing one-two in either order. After two days at the sun-blessed Woburn, the investments are looking as if they will pay off handsomely.

In purely European events, Montgomerie has won his last two and Westwood his last three. Something will have to give tomorrow. Westwood, needing to make up some pounds 320,000 to prevent Monty recording an incredible seventh successive Order of Merit title, toured the Duke's Course in the morning in 66 to move to ten under par.

His lead lasted only as long as it took Montgomerie to return a 64, his nine birdies leaving him one outside the course record and at 13 under par.

Westwood would only reveal that he had invested in a modest wager. Was it for charity, perhaps? "I think you have me confused with an American Ryder Cup player," came the reply.

The domination of the top two in Europe is likely to continue for some time. Like Montgomerie, Westwood does not settle easily in America. Interspersed in his winning streak at home were three disappointing tournaments in the States. "I didn't enjoy being there for three weeks," he said. "One week at a time is long enough.

"There are certain aspects I enjoy about playing in America, like the courses and the way the players are looked after. But there was a lot of shouting in Chicago and that's not my cup of tea. Golf is a game for gentlemen, it's not a football match. I just prefer being in Europe. It's nice to go out to dinner with your mates rather than having room service."

The man who Westwood would like to play with at the Ryder Cup, Darren Clarke, produced his best round since his 60 at the European Open, also finishing in 66. Losing that tournament after Westwood came from seven behind on the final day naturally unsettled the Irishman and he has not been in the best of humour since.

"My caddie Billy (Foster) tries to calm me down," Clarke said. "He needs a set of reins on me at times but unfortunately I manage to break them now and again." Westwood, temperamentally, is the exact opposite. "Darren is a strange bloke," Westwood said. "He goes from very high to very low very quickly. When he is high, he is tough to beat."

Friends though they are, Westwood does not exempt Clarke from his "take no prisoners" attitude. "I've helped him out in the past and it backfired on me. I gave him a putting tip at Montecastillo and he did a 63 on the last day to beat me."

Another offer this week from Victor Chandler is the ownership of a racehorse for a year for anyone having an albatross-two at the last. Bob May bagged the rare bird, only the third this season, but at the 10th, his first hole, when he sank a three-iron from 228 yards. As a consolation, May will be offered the ownership of a horse for a day.

"I have never had an albatross before and didn't see it go in, but Sven Struver was standing nearby and said it hit the pin and dropped," May said. The American was sponsored in his early career by the actor Joe Pesci, who starred in Casino. May, who is more interested in powerboating and motorcycling than the horses, lives in the city the film was set in, Las Vegas. "If I have friends in town, I go in and donate a few dollars," he said.