Lee Westwood secures runner-up spot at DP World Tour Championship to become oldest Race to Dubai winner

Englishman, who last won title in 2009, pips Fitzpatrick and Reed to the Order of Merit title

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Back in 2009, Lee Westwood knew what he needed to do to become the maiden winner of the newly minted Race to Dubai, as he arrived in the UAE for the season’s finale.

Win the new season-ending event in Dubai, and he would beat the young European Tour sensation Rory McIlroy to the Order of Merit title.

He did so, in thrilling style, meaning McIlroy would not break Seve Ballesteros’ record as the youngest ever player to become European No 1.

The margin of victory seemed wafer thin back then. It was around €600,000 on the money list.

Eleven years on, Westwood became the oldest winner of the Harry Vardon Trophy, taking the truncated 2020 Race following a runner-up finish behind Matthew Fitzpatrick in the DP World Tour Championship.

The difference between the top two this time? Just 18 points, which is scarcely enough for a shawarma and chips, let alone anything more lavish.

Never before has the culmination to the Tour season been so tight. But then, never before have we experienced a season like this.

“I figured I needed to finish 15-under to win the tournament,” Westwood said.

“[I had] not really had 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.”

For most of the final day it seemed as though Patrick Reed was doing just enough to become the first American to finish as Europe’s No 1 golfer.

Fitzpatrick held the tournament lead for the whole of the final round, after a blistering start. But he needed each of Reed, Westwood, Collin Morikawa and Tommy Fleetwood to finish third or lower if it was to mean a championship and Order of Merit double.

Fleetwood was the first to fall from the reckoning, ending on a 7-under total that placed him in 10th. Morikawa joined him in a tie for that not long after.

Then Reed’s composure dissipated just at the vital moment. He made three bogeys in his closing seven holes. Admittedly, he made three birdies in the same period, but that was only good enough for a tie for third place – thus lancing his chances to win the race.

Fitzpatrick could see Reed, playing the match ahead of him, make bogey while he was stood on the tee at the 17th.

At that point, he was the projected winner of the Race, by dint of the fact his playing partner, Laurie Canter, was in a tie for Westwood at that point.

Canter’s finish fell apart at the same hole, though, as he twice fluffed his chip from beside the green, and walked off the hole with a double bogey.

Second place on his own was enough to ensure Westwood finished the season at the top of the standings for the third time in two decades.

“It is hard to quantify it,” Westwood said. “It is 20 years since I sat there in Valderrama having finished second in the [WGC-American Express Championship], to win the Volvo Order of Merit as it was then.

“I won here in 2009 to win the Race to Dubai, and finished second today to win the Race to Dubai.

“It is not getting any easier. I’m not getting any younger, and I just enjoy playing in these tournaments.”

It is fair to say it has been a turbulent season, given the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

But at least Westwood was able to provide some neat bookends, lifting the Harry Vardon Trophy at its end, having won the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at its start.

“The motivation's never changed, really,” Westwood, 47, said. “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.

“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. 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.”