LEE Westwood claimed the Harry Vardon Trophy for the third time in 20 years as the 2020 Race to Dubai culminated in a dramatic afternoon at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
Hallamshire GC’s Matthew Fitzpatrick claimed a second victory at the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai to earn the first prize of nearly €2.5million
But the Sheffield ace – who turned pro after becoming the first English winner of the US Amateur in 102 years in 2013 – finished just 18 points short of his Newcastle-based rival’s total in the Race to Dubai.
With the final two groups still out on the course, Westwood sat with his fiance and caddy Helen Storey – in front of the Sky cameras – watching events unfold as first Patrick Reed, and then Laurie Canter, fell out of the tie for second place.
That meant that Westwood, who won the Volvo Order of Merit in 2000 and became the first Race to Dubai winner in 2009, earned enough points to overtake Fitzpatrick, even though he would claim the tournament spoils.
It also meant that Westwood, who kicked off the English Swing – that saw the 2020 European Tour season resume after a fourth-month hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic – as host of the British Masters at Close House, would bring the curtain down on the disrupted year as winner of the Harry Vardon Trophy again.
Westwood said: “I went out trying to win the tournament. That was the best and the simplest thing to try and do.
“There’s so many sort of permutations that can go on on a day like today. It can all get too confusing if you let it.
“You might as well just go out there and shoot as low a score as you can on each individual hole.
“I figured I needed to finish 15-under to win the tournament. Not really any thoughts of the Race to Dubai until I got into the scoring tent afterwards, and looked at it all – and realised ‘I’ve still got a chance.’
“The motivation’s never changed, really. I get to get up each day and do the job I love,” said the 47-year-old.
“I’ve always wanted to be a golfer, and I don’t want it to end. So I’m prepared to keep working hard and put myself in the line of fire and try and get into contention in tournaments.
“It’s where I’m most comfortable and what I love doing,” added Westwood, who has played in 10 Ryder Cups, and is now a strong contender to be in Padraig Harrington’s team for the rearranged clash with the USA at Whistling Straits in September.
Lee, talking about his three Order of Merit wins, said: “They have all been very different.
“I guess 2000, I was winning a lot – but I was still up-and-coming. It was only my seventh year on Tour.
“In 2009, I was honing in on the best player in the world spot, and I needed to win here to win the Race to Dubai, and I managed to do that.
“And then this one… I’m kind of the more mature player on the European Tour now.
“It wasn’t something I set out to do at the start of the year. But it shows the consistency I’ve shown. The most satisfying thing is doing it under pressure when it matters.”
His Harry Vardon Trophy win came after playing in 15 events on the European Tour in 2020 – runner-up Fitzpatrick competed in just 10.
Early birdie blitz wrapped up tournament
FITZPATRICK entered the final day of the fourth Rolex Series event of the season in a share of the lead.
After starting his round with four birdies he raced ahead and was on course to win the Race to Dubai for the first time.
But Westwood birdied two of his last three holes to snatch solo second and the European No. 1 crown.
Fitzpatrick matched Westwood’s round of 68 to finish one shot ahead at 15-under to win a first Rolex Series event.
It took his haul of European Tour trophies – which includes the 2016 DP World Tour Championship, Dubai title – to six. His first win came in the British Masters, at Woburn, in 2015.
‘Winning Race to Dubai was not on my mind’
Fitzpatrick said: “The start I got off to, four birdies in the first four, five under through seven, it’s a dream start.
“Fortunately I managed to pull away from that and really sort of create some distance.
“It was just obviously a bit of a grind on the back nine. For me it was just about finishing one hole at a time – and just getting through it.
“So I managed to do that, and finished well. I knew where I started the week a lot needed to go my way.
“When I saw Lee at second, it did enter my head briefly going to 18, even if I win, it’s probably not going to be enough, anyway.
“I turned up obviously 16th, so first Race to Dubai didn’t really enter my head if I’m honest. I just wanted to win this week a lot.
“It’s one of those few weeks in your career probably, where you’re like – it feels really good and I’m playing really well, and you go and win.
“You can play poorly and win and sometimes you can play amazing and lose,” said Fitzpatrick whose first major win as an amateur came at the Selborne Salver, at Blackmoor GC, in 2012.
“To me this is a week in all honesty, I felt I’m playing really well – and I managed to convert it.”
Reed’s dream of first US Vardon winner evaporates
PATRICK Reed entered the week on top of the Race to Dubai rankings and remained there for much of the day.
But bogeys on the 16th and 17th saw him finish in a tie for third at 13-under par – just one shot away from being the first American to take Europe’s season-long honours.
Norwegian Viktor Hovland finished alongside Reed in third place, fresh from his second win of the season on the PGA Tour last week in Mexico.
Hovland was one shot clear of Finland’s rookie winner Sami Välimäki and Bath’s Laurie Canter, with Frenchman Victor Perez at 10-under.
•For the final results at the 2020 DP World Tour Championship, click here.