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  • Alistair Tait

Lee Westwood proves class is permanent

Updated: Feb 23, 2020

Lee Westwood is living proof of that old adage which says “class is permanent.” His $7 million Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship victory, his 25th European Tour win, surprises no one.

Nothing the Englishman does comes as a surprise, even though there was a time many felt Westwood might not reach 15 European victories, never mind 25.

It seemed fitting that two of the three players Westwood held off to win in Abu Dhabi were young Englishmen. Tommy Fleetwood was just five years old when Westwood won his first European Tour title, the 1996 Volvo Scandinavian Masters. Matthew Fitzpatrick wasn’t even two! Yet the veteran held off the young pretenders to a throne that was once his.

“Just great to keep playing well and know you’re still good enough,” said an emotional Westwood afterwards, emotional because he has now won in four different decades.

There’s never been any argument about Westwood’s long game. Tee to green he’s one of the best in the game. Put it this way, if your life depended on a European Tour player hitting a fairway, then Westwood might be the first name on your lips.

It seems hard to believe now that Westwood once sank to 257th on the Official World Golf Ranking. That was in June 2003. There were suggestions that the Englishman was on the way out, that he didn’t have the desire to work hard to get back to winning ways.

Westwood’s answer? He won twice in the latter half of 2003, victories 14 and 15. He also went on to spend 22 weeks as world number one.

Career questions were also asked about Westwood after the 2016 Ryder Cup. Westwood lost all three matches he played in, as Europe was handed a 17-11 defeat.

Many expected Westwood to fade into obscurity after that Ryder Cup. He didn’t. He bounced back to win the 2018 Nedbank Golf Challenge, his 24th victory to set up win number 25 in Abu Dhabi. 

There have always been concerns over Westwood’s short game, but only because his long game is so good. No player gets to world number one if his short game is really bad.

Westwood only dropped four shots in four rounds in Abu Dhabi, and ranked 18th in putts per green in regulation, with a 1.6 average.

“I put in a lot of hard work with Phil Kenyon and I've been working with Ben Davis on the psychological part of it, but I really felt quite calm on the greens this week and rolled a lot of good putts,” he said.
“That was the key to winning, really. You've got to putt well to win any tournament.”

So, what does the future hold for the Englishman apart from a cast-iron certainty to get the 2022 Ryder Cup captaincy? He gave us a clue in his victory speech.

“I won my first tournament in 1996 in Sweden. I won that tournament, Scandinavian Masters, in three different decades, and now won here this week. The (20)20s could be the ones for me.”

Do not write off Lee John Westwood just yet. He certainly isn’t.

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