Consistent Westwood conquers Europe

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The Independent Online

Canada's Mike Weir won the World Championship here yesterday, but Lee Westwood won the title that really mattered in southern Spain. Weir shot a final round 69 to take the $1m (£690,000) first prize with a fine display of nerves and resilience. However, Westwood's five-under par 67 was good enough for second place. It gave him a cheque for £345,208, allowing him to leapfrog his friend Darren Clarke to win his first Order of Merit title.

Canada's Mike Weir won the World Championship here yesterday, but Lee Westwood won the title that really mattered in southern Spain. Weir shot a final round 69 to take the $1m (£690,000) first prize with a fine display of nerves and resilience. However, Westwood's five-under par 67 was good enough for second place. It gave him a cheque for £345,208, allowing him to leapfrog his friend Darren Clarke to win his first Order of Merit title.

Weir ended the tournament on 11 under par, Westwood was on nine under while Vijay Singh and Duffy Waldorf shared third on eight under. Tiger Woods, Nick Price, Sergio Garcia, and Padraig Harrington shared fifth spot on seven under.

Westwood finished the season £242,161 ahead of Clarke with £1,858,602 in total earnings, setting a new European Tour record. He also picked up an extra £1 from Clarke, collecting on a bet the two men struck in August.

Despite saying all week that he was not concerned about the Order of Merit race, Westwood admitted yesterday that he was drained by the whole experience. "I'm drained emotionally, not so much physically," he said. "It was very long day out there." It was not the £1 bet that was making him nervous.

Westwood had his mind set on winning the tournament until he made a bogey at the 14th hole. Then he turned his mind to winning the Order of Merit. He got a vital break on the 17th, when he was given a free drop out of a concrete drainage ditch after a wild tee shot into the trees. Westwood managed to limit the damage to a bogey calling it "probably the best six I've made in my life".

Westwood felt vindicated afterwards, saying he got the reward he deserved for being the most consistent player in Europe this season. "It's the consistency of the whole year coming to a pinnacle. It would have been unfortunate to win five times this year and not have won the Order of Merit."

Westwood ended Colin Montgomerie's run of seven consecutive Order of Merit titles stretching back to 1993. Montgomerie had to win here to have any chance of winning his eighth. The Scotsman fired a final round of 74, two over par, to finish 25th.

Clarke's final round of 70, two under par, left him at level par for the tournament. It meant a share of 17th place and a cheque for £38,835. The Ulsterman was gracious enough afterwards to concede that Westwood deserved to win. "In fairness, you'd have to say that Lee's been a lot more consistent this season. He's played better than I have on a more regular basis. Lee deserves to finish No 1 more than I do.

"I haven't been able to convert my chances into wins. Ultimately, that's what Lee does. That's why I think he deserved to finish No 1. He takes his chances more often than not."

Montgomerie was another who said he failed because he did not convert enough good performances into wins this season. "I've played poorly for the last few months, since The Open really. I haven't competed the way I would have liked to. I haven't given myself the best chances I have had to win."

Montgomerie left Valderrama vowing to rid himself of the putting problems that have hurt him all season. "I'll practise my putting. I've got to really practice this very, very hard, and do it and get it right."

Woods was expected to defend his title successfully this week. The world No 1 was just two strokes off the lead starting the day, but his defence came to an end at the controversial 17th. Woods' third shot landed past the pin but spun back into the water. It was Woods' third visit to the lake of the week and forced him to take seven. Price, second at the time, fared even worse, putting two balls in the water and took a triple-bogey eight. That gave Weir - who made a safety-first par at the hole - a three-shot lead down the 18th.

The victory showed that the left-hander had learnt his lesson from the master. The 30-year-old from Ontario had shared the lead with Woods going into the final round of the 1999 USPGA only for his game to fall apart. This time the roles were reversed.

AMERICAN EXPRESS WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP (Valderrama, Sp): Leading final scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 277 M Weir (Can) 68 75 65 69 (£690,417). 279 L Westwood 72 72 68 67 (£345,208). 280 V Singh (Fiji) 71 70 71 68; D Waldorf (US) 70 69 72 69 (£198,149 each). 281 S Garcia (Sp) 69 74 74 64; P Harrington 66 72 73 70, N Price (Zim) 63 72 74 72; T Woods (US) 71 69 69 72 (£108,740 each). 282 M Campbell (Nz) 72 71 69 70. 283 M Calcavecchia (US) 72 67 69 75. 284 S Flesch (US) 71 72 73 68; B May (US) 71 69 72 72; H Tanaka (Japan) 71 66 70 77. 285 K Triplett (USA) 72 73 71 69, J Coceres (Arg) 70 71 74 70. 286 C Perry (US) 68 72 75 71. 288 F Langham (US) 68 74 76 70; D Clarke 74 70 74 70; A Coltart 67 75 74 72; N Henning (Rsa) 69 74 73 72; A Cabrera (Arg) 74 74 67 73; S Hoch (US) 67 76 71 74; JM Olazabal (Sp) 70 76 69 73; P Price 73 72 69 74. 289 C DiMarco (US) 74 74 73 68, S Appleby (Aus) 72 76 71 70; G Orr 71 74 73 71; R Alleby (Aus) 69 76 73 71; N Sato (Japan) 73 73 72 71; E Romero (Arg) 71 72 74 72; D Toms (US) 70 75 72 72; M A Jimenez (Sp) 74 73 70 72; C Montgomerie 75 67 73 74; J Leonard (US) 72 74 69 74. 290 B Langer (Ger) 75 69 76 70; N Ozaki (Japan) 72 76 71 71; R Goosen (Rsa) 69 75 74 72; P McGinley 70 77 70 73. 292 J Maggert (US) 72 71 75 74.

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