11th November 2018 | Sunshine Tour
Westwood secures third Sun City win in brilliant display
It took Lee Westwood over four years to chalk up his 43rd tournament victory, and when he won the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gray Player by three strokes on Sunday, the relief was palpable.
The popular Englishman fired a superlative bogey-free round of eight-under-par 64 around the demanding Gary Player Country Club – the longest course on this season’s European Tour schedule – to shut out strong finishes by Sergio Garcia of Spain and local favourite Louis Oosthuizen.
“I’m a bit emotional to be honest,” said Westwood as he emerged from score recording. “You’re never sure whether you’re going to be able to do it again. Until now, my emotions have felt really under control all day, which is what I’ve been working on.”
He played as if he had iced-water in his veins as he turned the screws on overnight leader Garcia, who bogeyed the first, and on Oosthuizen who looked as if he might emerge victorious with three birdies in his first seven holes.
Westwood, the 2010 and 2011 champion at Sun City, eagled the second hole to move into a share of the lead, and then, after missing good birdie opportunities around the turn on nine and 10, birdied five of the last eight holes to pull clear.
Garcia shot a closing 70, and Oosthuizen, after making bogey on 15 to fall back into Westwood’s clutches, made double-bogey six on 18 to slip four shots behind Westwood in third place.
Westwood slammed the door shot on Oosthuizen with his birdie on 17, where a birdie putt found the bottom of the cup in full view of the South African and Garcia who were on the 17th tee was it happened.
“That seven-iron into 17 is probably one of the best shots I’ve ever hit,” he said. “I came off it a little bit off the 17th tee and slid it out to the right. But it gave me a good number in with a seven-iron, and the wind managed to stay in the right direction for long enough. Just turned it in off the TV tower to 10 feet and rolled the putt in.”
Oosthuizen knew the game was up when he saw that, but tried valiantly – and came close – to make a birdie of his own on 17. “The birdie he made on 17, I knew I had to finish birdie-birdie. I had a 15 -foot putt for birdie, and probably the best putt I had today and right at the end it decided to turn the other way. That hurt, because that was the one I needed. Then I could have a little bit more focus on 18. But that sort of knocked all the energy out of me. Knowing I needed to make a two down the last and I probably tried a bit too much.”
Garcia was full of praise for Westwood’s performance. “You have to give credit to Lee. To shoot 64 in the last round is not easy,” he said. “I’m thrilled for him. He had a bad Ryder Cup at Hazeltine and he struggled a little bit, and he’s been playing much better this year. He’s been knocking on the door for a while.”
For Westwood, the victory will take him back inside the top 100 in the world, after two periods at world number one which ended in May 2011. “Still got it, I guess. Just nice to do it again under pressure and win against a couple of quality players at the end there,” he said. “To hit the shots I hit down the stretch, it was just nice to prove it to myself again.”