Westwood storms to victory in Thailand
18 Dec 2011 - 12:16:55
Lee Westwood displayed all his class and experience Sunday as he brushed aside a challenge from Masters champion Charl Schwartzel to win the $1 million Thailand Golf Championship by seven strokes.
The emphatic victory at the Amata Spring Country Club, Westwood's fourth of the season, moved him up to world number two, replacing Rory McIlroy.
The Englishman had played fine golf all week including a stunning 12-under-par 60 in the first round.
He shot 69 in his final round to finish the tournament on 266, an impressive 22 under par, for his third win in Asia this season.
Schwartzel fought hard and briefly threatened the leader, but the South African had to settle for the runner-up spot after shooting an even-par 72.
Little-known American Michael Thompson performed well with a 70 to finish in third place, one shot back, while in joint fourth place two strokes further behind were Thailand's Chawalit Plaphol and Simon Dyson of England.
"I'm obviously delighted," said Westwood on his victory. "The first two days were probably the best I've ever played. I've never had an 11-shot lead after two rounds before."
Although Westwood's fourth-round score did not match the 60 and 64 of his first two days, he was still very satisfied with it. "I thought 69 was a good score. I putted great on the back nine."
Westwood felt the turning point on Sunday was at the 12th when he sunk a birdie after Schwartzel had also birdied and looked like he might close to within two shots.
"Fortunately I holed it. That was an important putt," he said.
He was understandably upbeat about the next season. "I'm a better player than one year ago and I'm managing my game better too," he said.
Schwartzel admitted it had been "a tough day".
He conceded that Westwood's birdies on the 12th and 13th proved decisive. "I had pulled him back to three shots and it was getting close up to that stage."
The South African said he was happy with his overall performance. "I played great. If it wasn't for Lee I would have probably won the tournament."
Schwartzel began the day knowing he had to overhaul a four-shot lead and got off to a good start when he birdied the first hole, while Westwood could only manage a par.
But Westwood responded quickly with two successive birdies and at the turn the Englishman held a five-shot lead.
There was drama at the par-five 11th when Schwartzel sunk an eagle while Westwood missed a birdie putt, resulting in a two-shot swing to the South African and cutting the lead to three.
Both players birdied the 12th but Westwood also picked up a stroke at the 13th to restore his four-shot lead.
Schwartzel's challenge effectively ended at the next hole when a poor chip saw him make a bogey, leaving Westwood five shots clear with just four to play. He went on to stretch the lead by a further two strokes.
John Daly finished joint 16th after shooting 75 in the final round while Sergio Garcia recorded a 71 for joint 24th place.
Japanese star Ryo Ishikawa finished what was a miserable tournament for him with a 73, well down the field on a total of 297, nine over par.
Ishikawa was in good company though, sharing the same overall score as British Open champion Darren Clarke who shot a disappointing 77 in his final round.