There has never been any doubting that when Lee Westwood is good, he is very, very good. Three top-10 finishes in the last three weeks suggested he was good again. Yesterday a flawless 65 in the final round of the Quinn Direct British Masters showed he was back to his best.
Westwood's second victory of the season, confirmed with a pair of breathtaking putts on the 16th and 17th greens, was much more emphatic than his earlier win in the Open de Andalucia in May. That was his first win for four years but he was only playing in Spain because he had not qualified for that week's Players Championship in America after falling out of the top 50 on the world rankings. But the man from just up the road at Worksop felt at home on the Brabazon course all week, more so with the tournament in the autumn than its previous date in the spring. Now his September record here amounts to a starring role in the 2002 Ryder Cup and a victory that gives him the perfect start to qualifying for the 2008 team.
As if Westwood needed any more motivation the tournament is promoted by his manager, Andrew "Chubby" Chandler, who has done much to restore the stature of the title. "The British Masters is one of our most prestigious events and that was one of the things I was thinking about coming here," Westwood said. "I've been playing well and it felt as if I was building up to doing something like this. I drove the ball as good as I've ever driven it and, under pressure, I kept my emotions in check and holed the putts on the back nine when I needed to. Being only an hour away from home there were a lot of fans here to support me and the reception at the 18th was very special."
Westwood won by five strokes from Ian Poulter, whose clubs will now be left in the bag as he prepares for his wedding next week. The margin of victory hid the fact that it was a tight contest for much of the day although Poulter admitted never being able to make enough putts to sustain the pressure in his closing 70.
"Lee played great today and it's nice to see a British winner," Poulter said. "I gave myself a lot of chances but it was a little disappointing not to keep the pressure on Lee all the way."
As brilliantly as he played, Westwood's round was also ruthless since he overcame a two-stroke overnight deficit to Mark Foster, a colleague from Worksop and an usher at Westwood's wedding. Westwood drew level with a couple of early birdies and then went ahead but when Foster chipped in at the ninth he was back to all square.
Westwood survived a wild drive over the green at the short par-four 10th but started his run for home with a birdie at the 13th. It was as Westwood lined up a 40-footer at the 16th that Foster's challenge faded as he drove out of bounds at the 13th, while Poulter was missing yet another chance just behind him.
Westwood holed the putt and punched the air. At the next, the par-five 17th, he holed from 30 feet for an eagle and the tournament was over. The clinical precision with which they were executed was a throw back to his best days in the late Nineties. "At the Ryder Cup five years ago, I holed a similar putt on the 16th to go one-up but ended up losing the match so that kept me focused over the last two holes," he revealed.Reuse content