PGA Championship: Lee Westwood is left puzzling over how he threw big prize away
Home favourite disappoints fans with collapse after being on the verge of glory
This is how it was meant to be, the British summer breaking out all over Wentworth and, at the heart of this bucolic idyll, Lee Westwood receiving the love of a full house. If not now, when, was the question fate dangled before the world No 12 at the start of the day.
For all the tournaments won, more than 40 worldwide, for all the prize-money banked, more than any other on the European Tour, Westwood has never won a championship as prestigious as the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. Sadly for him, we are still waiting. While the play-off contenders returned to the 18th tee, Westwood was left to deconstruct his disappointment.
None is guaranteed the victory. This is sport, after all. But for a player as good as Westwood normal justifications do not apply. Starting in the final group one off the lead, surrounded by good players but not great, it is hard to conceive a more propitious set of circumstances. Factor in an electric start that yielded three successive birdies from the second hole to engineer a two-shot lead and the failure to finish the job is even harder to reconcile.
This was not so much a collapse as a capitulation, and a bitter disappointment for galleries that had invested plenty in a Westwood win. The political trauma and Arctic blast that strangled the start of the week gave way to blue skies and brisk golf. True, there was no Rory McIlroy or defending champion Luke Donald, and Ian Poulter was practising his putting on the deck of a boat at the Monaco Grand Prix, but Westwood more than made up for that at the start of the day.
You had to feel sorry for Spain's Alejandro Canizares, the invisible man in the final pairing. "Go on Lee," went the cry as he set off in search of a victory. Watching him splice the fairway with the precision of a surgeon's scalpel, it was hard to square the golfer on view with a record bereft of major championships. All would become clear.
The move to the United States last December, though coming late in the day for a player approaching his 40th birthday, was intended to correct the deficiencies in his game said to be behind the majorless trophy cabinet. It was hard to find one over the opening holes as he ripped three birdies on the bounce.
Of course, Westwood was not the only golfer with a game good enough to win. Matteo Manassero was born in the year Westwood made his debut here, 1993, yet arrived with three victories on the European Tour under his belt. Four birdies in his outward nine saw him reach the turn at 10 under par for a share of the lead. Simon Khan, a winner here three years ago, was also making his move, and the Open champion Ernie Els was in the clubhouse on eight under after a 67 to remind the contenders how little room for manoeuvre they had if they were to bring the trophy home.
There are those among us who believe Westwood's problems are less to do with talent than temperament. Successive bogeys brought Westwood back to the pack. The miss from inside three feet on the seventh was as ugly as any in recent years. It happens. Westwood has been rolling the ball beautifully this week; his 20-footer on the second was never anywhere else but the middle of the cup.
He recovered with a birdie at the eighth to re-establish a one-shot advantage and his chip at 11 over a bunker to four feet was evidence of the improvement he has made in his short game. But the putt did not drop, and once again questions were being asked. Meanwhile Marc Warren was completing a hat-trick of birdies at the 12th to assume the lead. What had looked like a procession for Westwood was now a dogfight.
And it was about to get worse. Much worse. A pulled tee shot at the 12th led to a double-bogey seven, including another catastrophic miss from inside three feet. They all do it, of course, but not all have Westwood's recent history of putting struggles. Another shot went at the 14th to leave him four off the lead. There was no way back from there. A birdie at the last for a 73 mocked his day.
Typically, Westwood accounted for his demise in technical terms. "I'm struggling with my swing at the moment," he said. "When you are in the last round and want to go flat out you just get found out. My short game was good but I struggled a little on the greens. The three-putt on seven cost me, I missed from three feet on the 11th and four on the 12th."
He added: "It can be a bit deceptive sometimes, making three birdies in the first four holes, but it still didn't feel quite right, the ball wasn't going as far as I wanted it to. I was pleased I was in contention. I had a sniff at winning. I got to 11 under and 10 under is playing off. So it's not all bad. But it's the sort of thing where I feel like if I was hitting it well, I should be winning a few tournaments, really."
Sergio Garcia, who started the week in a blaze of bad publicity, ended it quietly on five under par.
Elsewhere the challenge was being accepted. Khan birdied the last for a 66 to post the clubhouse lead on 10 under par. Challenge Tour rookie Eddie Pepperell topped a brilliant week with a 69 to close alongside Els. For a 22-year-old from Abingdon, these were big numbers indeed.
Miguel Jimenez had the cigars out after a remarkable upswing in fortune. With four to play on Friday he was four over par, two the wrong side of the cut. Three birdies coming home alowed him to limp into the weekend and here he was two days later just one off the lead after a birdie-eagle finish gave him a second successive 67. Arise the king of Spain.
Wentworth: How it finished
PGA Championship final round (GB & Irl unless stated, par 72): 278 M Manassero (It) 69 71 69 69; M Warren 69 70 70 69; S Khan 69 72 71 66 (Manassero won at fourth play-off hole); 279 M Angel Jimenez (Sp) 76 69 67 67; A Canizares (Sp) 69 70 68 72; 280 J Kingston (SA) 66 77 69 68; E Els (SA) 72 69 72 67; E Pepperell 71 69 71 69; 281 F Molinari (It) 70 68 73 70; R Ramsay 71 75 66 69; L Westwood 70 71 67 73; 282 P Uihlein (US) 72 73 68 69; M Ilonen (Fin) 67 76 70 69; S Lowry 70 71 69 72; N Fasth (Swe) 70 71 72 69; G Bourdy (Fr) 71 73 70 68; B Wiesberger (Aut) 73 71 70 68; P Larrazabal (Sp) 71 73 67 71; 283 R Bland 71 71 69 72; D Drysdale 71 73 69 70; S Garcia (Sp) 72 71 68 72; E Molinari (It) 71 71 69 72; G Havret (Fr) 70 71 71 71; 284 P Price 73 69 70 72; B Grace (SA) 71 73 71 69; N Colsaerts (Bel) 72 70 73 69; G Coetzee (SA) 69 70 75 70; R Jacquelin (Fr) 71 71 73 69; T Fleetwood 71 74 68 71; F Zanotti (Par) 71 75 70 68; M Foster 70 69 72 73; 285 R Fisher 72 73 68 72; A Noren (Swe) 74 71 71 69; D Willett 73 72 73 67; D Clarke 74 70 72 69; A Quiros (Sp) 70 73 69 73; 286 A Hansen (Den) 70 74 73 69; J Donaldson 71 75 73 67; L Slattery 71 71 69 75; 287 T Bjorn (Den) 69 74 75 69; M Siem (Ger) 75 71 71 70; G Storm 73 71 69 74; C Doak 74 71 72 70; T Jaidee (Thai) 74 71 72 70; 288 S Kjeldsen (Den) 74 72 70 72; G Mulroy (SA) 74 71 72 71; C Montgomerie 71 75 72 70; J Van Zyl (SA) 75 69 73 71; O Fisher 70 75 73 70; 289 J Rose 72 74 69 74; J Kruger (SA) 71 74 72 72; R Santos (Portugal) 73 72 76 68; M Kaymer (Ger) 70 74 73 72; P McGinley 71 75 70 73; W-C Liang (Chin) 75 68 72 74; T Levet (Fr) 71 75 70 73.
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