Westwood maintains fine form as next major beckons

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Lee Westwood completed his preparations for the USPGA championship in perfect fashion with victory here in the Scandinavian Masters.

Lee Westwood completed his preparations for the USPGA championship in perfect fashion with victory here in the Scandinavian Masters.

Westwood fired a closing level par 71 for a 14-under-par total of 270 at Kungsangen and a three-shot win in his last event before the final major of the year at Valhalla.

New Zealand's Michael Campbell finished in second place after a closing 67 with Raymond Russell a stroke further back in third, a result that should secure the Scot's tour card for next season.

The £164,000 first prize took Westwood to the top of the Order of Merit and continued an extraordinary run of form for the world No 5 since he complained that his game was at a low ebb in the Benson and Hedges International at the Belfry in mid-May.

Since then he has finished first, second, fourth, fifth, first, first, 64th, third and now first again in his last nine tournaments, the only aberration coming in the Open championship at St Andrews.

"And we all know why that is!" joked Westwood, who once said the Old Course would not figure in his top 200 courses in Fife, let alone the world.

The victory also represents his 13th tournament win in Europe and 22nd worldwide since 1996 when he first tasted success in Gothenburg.

"It's a lot harder leading by a lot than people think," said Westwood, who started the day six shots clear. "You are expected to win and you have to have a different game plan.

"It's the first time I've won leading from start to finish and it drains you. You are under pressure constantly right from the word go. It's much easier when you are a couple of shots behind and then make a dash for the line on the last day. You really have to have your wits about you when you lead wire to wire.

"It's always nice to win close to a major because it gives you a lot of confidence but I don't think it makes that much difference. The majors are a different kettle of fish.

"You have to forget what's happened in the past and try and focus.

"I've had weeks where I've struck the ball better than I have over the last eight weeks but certainly, as far as this two months of solid golf, it's definitely the best form I've shown and it's probably the best form anyone has shown in Europe for a while. You'd have to go a long way to find a bunch of results like mine."

Westwood has always said winning the Order of Merit, which Colin Montgomerie has done for the last seven years, is not a major priority and it looked a distant possibility after Darren Clarke won £600,000 at the World Matchplay.

But the 27-year-old's recent performances have seen him overhaul his friend sooner than expected, although he knows the positions could quickly be reversed with plenty of lucrative events still to come.

"It [the money list] is the gauge all the pros go by," Westwood added. "It did not look like I was going to be top at any stage in February, but I'm on a good run and I'm just trying to keep it going.

"Hopefully I can win some more tournaments and the Order of Merit. I'm in a much better position than anybody could have predicted three months ago but there's still a long way to go.

Westwood began in style with a birdie from 50 feet on the first but could only manage pars to the turn to be out in 35.

That allowed the chasing pack to close up with Kent's Jamie Spence setting the early target at nine under after a 66 and Russell one of those who got within three shots of the lead when Westwood dropped shots at the 10th and 11th.

But that was as close as anybody got, Westwood steadying the ship before removing all doubt with a birdie on the 17th.

Russell was nevertheless delighted almost certainly to have guaranteed his playing privileges for next season, his cheque for £61,636 taking his earnings for the year over £100,000.

"That's so handy to know that the card of safe for next year," said the 28-year-old from Edinburgh. I thought that for a time with Lee not doing much that I could get closer to him but I'm happy with that result."

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