Westwood strives for elevation

Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood return to the fray this week after being mauled by Tiger Woods again, at St Andrews. Disappointed not to give the world No 1 a sterner challenge in the Open - Clarke finished 11 strokes behind in ninth place and Westwood 22 adrift in 64th - the pair are striving to prove they have no lasting scars at the TNT Dutch Open here.

Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood return to the fray this week after being mauled by Tiger Woods again, at St Andrews. Disappointed not to give the world No 1 a sterner challenge in the Open - Clarke finished 11 strokes behind in ninth place and Westwood 22 adrift in 64th - the pair are striving to prove they have no lasting scars at the TNT Dutch Open here.

A successful defence of the title he won at Hilversum last year could take Westwood top of the Order of Merit for the first time this season. However, it is now not Clarke he is trying to dislodge, but the South African Ernie Els, whose second place finishes in the Masters, US Open and Open Championship have all counted towards the European money list.

After five months in first place - since he beat Woods in the final of the Andersen Consulting World Match Play in California - Clarke was knocked off top spot on Sunday. But it was not that so much as his failure to sustain a last-round challenge which left him frustrated.

"It's very unlike me to get myself in a position and then waste it," the Ulsterman said. "But it's made me more determined than ever. There is no point getting dispirited. I made a couple of mistakes and a couple of short putts horseshoed out, but overall I hit the ball fine and putting with me comes and goes. Winning is important. There is nothing like it and I want to get back on that trail."

Westwood went to the Old Course with victories in his previous two events. At halfway he was four under par and still in contention, but his dislike for St Andrews revealed itself with closing rounds of 76 and 75. "I tried to enjoy it, but struggled and couldn't wait to get off and get home," he said.

"I know that Ernie has gone to No 1 and that Darren or I could go there," he added, "but there's only one time to do it and that's right at the end of the year. There are two world championships with a million dollars on offer and the only thing to concern me at the moment is the Dutch Open."

The first of those tournaments is in Ohio next month and there are only two more events after this week before the 12 European players taking part are decided. Clarke and Westwood are safe, as are Colin Montgomerie, Padraig Harrington and Phil Price. But players such as ninth-placed Gary Orr, 10th-placed Paul McGinley, 11th-placed Andrew Coltart and Ian Woosnam in 12th are all under threat. Of those Orr, McGinley and Coltart play this week, but not Woosnam.

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