As a statement that Lee Westwood means business once again a victory over the world No 2, Ernie Els, at the home of golf was as emphatic as they come. In winning the Dunhill Links Championship, the 30-year-old from Worksop claimed the biggest cheque of his career at £490,000.
Over the last three years when the magic had disappeared there were times when he could not earn a penny. Now the former European No 1 has won for the second time in four weeks.
A final round of 67 left him on 21-under par and one clear of Els, who was also second in this event two years ago. Raphael Jacquelin, of France, was third, a further two strokes back, although earlier in the afternoon over a dozen golfers were queuing up to try and overhaul the leader.
"It has been an incredible turnaround after the last three years," said Westwood, whose victories have been taken so calmly it is as if he never stopped winning at all. "It has come back very quickly," he said. "Not everyone is comfortable playing with the lead but I enjoy it and it is what I practise for. To win at the home of golf is everyone's dream."
Westwood was not the first not to appreciate the Old Course on his early appearances, but few would have categorised it as "not in the top-200 courses in Fife". Now he said: "It seems to have clicked with me."
There is something wonderfully admirable about the way Westwood has worked his way back to the top of his form. He felt his game slipping away even as he won the order of merit in 2000, but took time off for the birth of his son at the start of the next season and never got in his stride.
It was not until he committed to working with David Leadbetter in February that he felt back on the right path. Confidence, though, was the last piece of the jigsaw to fit into place and for much of a frustrating season it took only one horrendous hole to ruin a good round. Yet he bore the disappointments as gracefully as he had accepted victories earlier in his career.
When Westwood claimed an emotional breakthrough win in Germany last month, his first for almost three years, he zoomed out of the pack on the final day with a back nine of 30. This was a far sterner test of his returning form as he held the overnight lead after a course record of 62 at Kingsbarns on Saturday that was completed with his first ever albatross. A bogey at the second hole was his first of the week but remained the last. Westwood made his move around the loop, with birdies at the eighth, the ninth, the 10th, then the 12th and the 13th. Els holed from over 35 feet at the 17th and also birdied the last to get within one stroke.
Westwood still had the, in his words, "smelly" 17th to play but put a five-iron over the bunker and two-putted before sealing the win with his par at the last.
A day after Westwood had robbed Brian Davis of his course record of 65 at Kingsbarns, the Londoner claimed a share of the Old Course record by matching the 62s of Curtis Strange and Mark O'Meara. The European Tour regard Davis's round as a new course record as the Old Course was lengthened for the 2000 Open. Davis missed from 20 feet at the ninth, his last, for what would have been an historic 61.
"It was a pity I didn't go lower," Davis said. "If ever there was a day to break 60 this was it. It would have been lovely to be the first person to shoot 61 at St Andrews but it is great to share the course record at the home of golf, especially after Lee took away my record at Kingsbarns with his albatross yesterday."
In the pro-am event, Sam Torrance and his son Daniel, 15, also hit a 62 to win by three strokes, exactly a year since Samcaptained Europe to Ryder Cup victory.
DUNHILL LINKS CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL SCORES
(St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns) Leading final scores (GB & Irl unless stated): 267 L Westwood 70 68 62 67. 268 E Els (SA) 72 65 67 64. 270 R Jacquelin (Fr) 69 68 64 69. 271 M Lafeber (Neth) 68 69 67 67, D Clarke 67 68 66 70 (£135,923 each). 272 N O'Hern (Aus) 73 67 67 65, B Davis 74 70 66 62, D Howell 67 68 69 68, H Stenson (Swe) 71 66 67 68, R Sterne (SA) 71 67 65 69. 273 M Campbell (NZ) 68 68 66 71. 274 P Lawrie 67 68 71 68, M McNulty (Zim) 71 66 68 69, P Price 68 71 66 69, S Yates 66 71 66 71. 275 Charlie Wi (S Kor) 71 70 66 68, V Singh (Fij) 72 66 69 68, I Poulter 69 69 68 69. 276 M James 70 71 67 68, S Scahill (NZ) 70 73 67 66, J Clement (Swi) 72 68 70 66, F Jacobson (Swe) 71 68 65 72, P Lawrie 69 67 68 72. 277 J Bickerton 70 70 70 67, D Park 70 70 66 71, T Immelman (SA) 71 71 68 67, J Haeggman (Swe) 69 73 69 66, K Ferrie 71 72 68 66. 278 G Day (USA) 69 73 67 69, N Price (Zim) 68 70 70 70, R Green (Aus) 74 72 64 68, I Woosnam 72 69 70 67, N Faldo 71 70 70 67.