Fitzpatrick Wins But Westwood Finishes Season as King of Europe
MATTHEW FITZPATRICK won the DP World Tour Championship but the real winner was Lee Westwood who, as a result of finishing second behind his fellow Englishman, secured the Race to Dubai title. He does so at the age of 47, becoming the oldest man ever to achieve the feat. It is the third time that Westwood has won the Harry Vardon Trophy but this will be the most satisfying of all, coming at a time in his career when he should be thinking about life on the Champions Tour. He won earlier in the year in Abu Dhabi and has played consistently throughout this truncated season.
He will now turn his attention to making Padraig Harrington’s Ryder Cup team to face the USA at Whistling Straits next year.
And it still means as much to him today as it did when he won for the first time 20 years ago.
“It’s been 20 years since I sat there at Valderrama and finished second in the American Express Championship to win the Volvo Order of Merit as it was back then," Westwood said. "I won here in 2009 to win the Race to Dubai and now I’ve finished second to win it today.
"They have all been very different. I guess 2000, sort of I was winning a lot, but I was still up and coming. It was only my seventh year on Tour. 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 motivation's never changed, really. I get to get up each day and do the job I love. I've always wanted to be a golfer and I don't want it to end. 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. I love the work away from the course and the gym and on the range, the hard work that people don't see, I love that. I don't need to motivate myself very often."
Smiles all round...20 years on from my 1st Race to Dubai title, absolutely honoured to pick up my 3rd.— Lee Westwood (@WestwoodLee) December 13, 2020
Thanks you everyone at @EuropeanTour for making our return to golf possible this year, bring on 2021???????? pic.twitter.com/jxXYhpR9Ct
Fitzpatrick entered the final day on the Earth Course in a share of the lead but after starting his round with four birdies, he held a commanding lead and was on course to win the Race to Dubai. But Westwood birdied two of his final three holes to grab second place on his own and claim the Race to Dubai honours. Fitzpatrick matched his 68 to finish at 15 under, one shot clear of Westwood.
Patrick Reed entered the week on top of the Race to Dubai and remained there for much of the day but bogeys on the 16th and 17th saw him finish one shot shy of becoming the first American to take Europe's season long honours at 13 under. Norwegian Viktor Hovland finished alongside Reed, one shot clear of Finn Sami Valimaki and England’s Laurie Canter, with Frenchman Victor Perez finishing on 10 under.
Fitzpatrick has been one of the European Tour's most consistent performers since coming through the Qualifying School in 2014, claiming five victories in his first four seasons, including this tournament four years ago.
The victory takes him back into the top 20 in the world rankings. "The start I got off to, four birdies in the first four, five under through seven, it's a dream start," he said. "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 managed to do that and finished well.
"I had no idea about the Race to Dubai because I knew where I started the week at 16, a lot needed to go my way. When I saw Lee was second, it did enter my head briefly going to the 18th, even if I win it's probably not going to be enough, anyway. I just wanted to win a lot this week.
"I'm just trying to improve every year. I set high standards of myself and I am honestly very hard on myself and my team will all tell you the same thing. To be here at 26, and I don't know what this win has taken me to in the world, potentially my highest year-end ranking, I'm very, very happy.”
Reed dropped a shot on the second to slip back and it was the final group of Canter and Fitzpatrick who took centre stage. Both men hit excellent approaches into the first, with Canter holing from 16 feet and Fitzpatrick finding the target from a quarter of that range before making a two-putt birdie from a tricky position on the second green.
Canter holed from 20 feet on the third but Fitzpatrick followed him and another ten footer on the fourth gave him a three-shot lead as Canter dropped a shot. At that point, Fitzpatrick was winning the Race to Dubai, but Reed holed a long putt at the fourth and put his tee shot to 10 feet on the sixth to climb back onto a tie for second. A chip-in at the seventh from Reed cut the gap to two but Fitzpatrick got up and down from the sand on the same hole for a birdie.
A three-putt on the 12th dropped Reed out of a share of second but he picked the shot straight back up from eight feet on the next and when he chipped in again at the 15th to sit second alone, he had tightened his grip on the Harry Vardon Trophy. But he found sand off the tee at the 16th and dropped a shot, and Canter was the man who emerged as a potential kingmaker.
He had dropped a shot on the seventh but regained it on the eighth and also birdied the tenth before making a bogey on the 13th. But a two putt birdie on the 14th and a gain from eight feet on the next moved him into solo second and Fitzpatrick was once again in the box seat.
Westwood made birdies on the third, eighth and 10th but found water on the 14th before hitting a glorious shot to the 16th to set up a birdie. Another birdie on the last after getting up and down from the sand put him in the clubhouse at 14 under and when Reed failed to do the same and dropped a shot on the 17th, both trophies were in Fitzpatrick's hands.
But two poor chips on the 17th saw Canter record a double bogey on the 17th, meaning only an eagle at the last could deny Westwood second place. Fitzpatrick bogeyed the 17th to see his lead cut to one but both he and Canter parred the last to ensure there would be double English celebrations at the season finale.
Reed chipped in again at the last to complete his 70, while Hovland carded six birdies and three bogeys in a 69. Välimäki also made six birdies and three bogeys, while Canter signed for a 71 and Perez finished his week with a 68.
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