Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Westwood caps Year on the Fairways

Lee Westwood has been named The Race to Dubai European Tour Golfer of the Year following a momentous season which culminated in him being crowned Europe’s Number One golfer for the second time in his career. The award comes at the end of a year in which he won twice – in the Portugal Masters and Dubai World Championship presented by: DP World – and became the inaugural winner of The Race to Dubai with record earnings of €4,237,762. In the process, he climbed to Number Four on the Official World Golf Ranking. The 36 year old Englishman has been named The European Tour Golfer of the Year on two previous occasions, in 1998 and 2000, and joins Severiano Ballesteros, Ernie Els and Sir Nick Faldo as a three-time winner. European Ryder Cup Captain Colin Montgomerie is the only player to have won the award four times. Westwood’s performance in the Dubai World Championship in particular was breathtaking in its brilliance. Westwood was trailing Rory McIlroy in The Race to Dubai heading into the final week of the season but knew that victory in the Dubai World Championship would make him unbeatable in the quest to be crowned European Tour Number One and once again hold the Harry Vardon Trophy. For four days he put on a masterclass and his final round of eight under par 64 over the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates will stand alongside some of the greatest performances ever witnessed on The European Tour as he hit every fairway, every green and holed every putt of consequence for a six-stroke victory, thus securing his 20th European Tour title. His level of consistency, particularly over the second half of the season, was also something to behold as he recorded 11 top ten finishes from his 13 events after the US Open. His victory in the Portugal Masters, his first win in more than two years, was his 30th title worldwide and took him past Mark James and second only to Sir Nick Faldo in the list of England’s most prolific champions. In addition to his two victories, Westwood also finished joint third in The Open Championship at Turnberry, where he was within a putt of making the play-off with Stewart Cink and Tom Watson, and finished in the same position in the US PGA Championship at Hazeltine National GC. Westwood said: “It is a fantastic honour to win The European Tour Golfer of the Year and cap a wonderful season for me and all those who have helped me get to this position. “I have won this award twice before but this probably means more to me in recognising how I have fought my way back to the top. When I last finished Number One in 2000 it was special as I won six events and the World Match Play that year. But to then drop completely into obscurity and come back from that, get back into the World’s top five and crown it all by winning the Dubai World Championship and the first Race to Dubai means a lot. “It says a lot about my mental strength and about the team around me, and all the hard work and dedication they have put in, and the belief they have shown in me. It certainly helps having Billy Foster on the bag, a man I consider the best caddie in Europe, if not the world, while Steve McGregor, who I have worked with on my fitness for the past three years, and my coach, Pete Cowen, have all played a huge part on the course. And I’d also like to thank my manager Chubby Chandler, who I have been with for 16 years, and my family at home, who have been supportive through the good times and the bad times, and back through the good times. This award is as much for them as it is for me.” European Tour Chief Executive George O’Grady said: “We congratulate Lee on a marvellous season and deservedly winning The Race to Dubai European Tour Golfer of the Year award. He has demonstrated a tremendous level of consistency this season, coupled with brilliant performances in the Portugal Masters and the Dubai World Championship. He is also an outstanding ambassador for The European Tour on the global stage.” Westwood was voted The Race to Dubai European Tour Golfer of the Year by a panel comprising members of the Association of Golf Writers in addition to commentators from television and radio following a lively discussion during which a number of candidates were considered. Angel Cabrera was singled out for special mention for his victory in the Masters Tournament in May while the performances of Rory McIlroy, second to Westwood in The Race to Dubai and only the second 20 year old in history to break into the world’s top ten, Martin Kaymer, with his back-to-back victories in the Open de France ALSTOM and The Barclays Scottish Open, and Ross Fisher, fourth in The Race to Dubai after victory in the Volvo World Match Play Championship, were also highly commended. Paul Casey, who won two European Tour titles including the flagship BMW PGA Championship and made his breakthrough in the US but missed the second half of the season through injury, was also given particular praise. The panel also spoke highly of the strength in depth of The European Tour with players such as Chris Wood, The Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year, making wonderful progress. Iain Carter, Golf Correspondent of BBC Radio Five Live, said: “Many players had outstanding claims including Angel Cabrera for his superb win in the Masters Tournament, but one man stood apart from the others. Lee Westwood was the standout European Tour Golfer of the Year. I’m sure that Lee would be the first to say that the supporting cast was fantastic – led by the youthful flair and brilliance of Rory McIlroy. You could say that between them Rory, Martin Kaymer, Ross Fisher and, in fairness, Paul Casey took it to the 18th – but when it came to the conclusion of The Race to Dubai, then the finish by Lee was overwhelming. Lee stepped up his game when he needed to and his golf over four rounds on the new Earth course at Jumeirah Golf Estates was absolutely sublime. He is a fantastic golfer and a fantastic man for The European Tour. A true character and personality; a wonderful role model for the game of golf. “The panel also wanted to place on record the part that Billy Foster as caddie played in Lee Westwood’s outstanding season for which he was deservedly elected The European Tour Golfer of the Year.”

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