Mission Europe fuels Westwood

Lee Westwood emphasised his determination to take over as No 1 in Europe yesterday as he set his sights on this week's Italian Open here at Is Molas in Sardinia.

Lee Westwood emphasised his determination to take over as No 1 in Europe yesterday as he set his sights on this week's Italian Open here at Is Molas in Sardinia.

Westwood currently occupies top slot in the European money list and plans to extend his lead over the chasing pack with just three events to go. If he succeeds he will end Colin Montgomerie's total domination on the European circuit which has seen him record seven straight wins in the Order of Merit to earn the undisputed crown as European No 1.

While at the other end of the ladder the players fight it out to retain their playing rights for next season in the last counting event, Westwood has his eyes set firmly on the £97,000 first prize to increase his slender lead over his close friend Darren Clarke. A seventh victory of the season for Westwood - which would be a European tour record - would not be enough to seal the Order of Merit title, however, with the last two special events in Spain offering enormous purses.

Prize money at the Volvo Masters in Jerez next week has doubled to £2m and the following week's American Express World Championship at Valderrama has more than £3m riding on it.

"I've never been to Sardinia and... even if I don't play well I will get back into the swing of things for the big two Spanish tournaments. The aim is to win but if I don't I will have still played competitively. That's what I need to keep my eye on. I went on holiday to Portugal, didn't play any golf and just relaxed - but it doesn't take long to get back.

"I obviously would like to win the Order of Merit and be European No 1. Monty has won it for the last seven years. Now maybe it is time for a change. He has not probably played as well as previous years but he is still thereabouts [currently sixth] which shows how good a player he really is."

Westwood's biggest challenge is likely to come from Denmark's Thomas Bjorn who lies fourth on the money list and can still become European No 1 himself.

The Ryder Cup captain, Sam Torrance, and his vice-captain, Ian Woosnam, are also competing although Woosnam is struggling with a virus picked up at the weekend.

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