Westwood would welcome another Sun City cruise
NEDBANK CHALLENGE:After his lowest finish on the European Tour in six years Lee Westwood still has the chance to complete his 2012 campaign on a high.
Westwood, 12th on the money list this side of the Atlantic and 24th in America, is the defending champion both at this week’s Nedbank Challenge in South Africa and next week’s Thailand Championship.
Both events will bring back memories of some of the best golf of his career last year.
At Sun City the 39-year-old world number six had a course record 62 in the third round and went on to make it two wins in a row, while in Bangkok he started with a 60, followed up with a 64 to lead by an incredible 11 shots and ended up triumphing by seven.
“I’d love to be the first to win three Nedbank Golf Challenge titles in a row,” he said.
“You just have to look at the names on the trophy to realise how special it is. It’s not the winning margin that is important to me, but it’s the coming back and defending the title that is so satisfying.”
Westwood, about to emigrate from Worksop to Florida, has added wins in Indonesia and Sweden this season, but there have been plenty of disappointments too.
After a third-placed finish at the US Masters and then a 10th in the US Open he managed only 45th in the British Open and missed the cut at the USPGA Championship.
It left him still without a Major win in 59 attempts and brought a split with coach Pete Cowen and caddie Mike Waite, since when he has also stopped working on his short game with ex-Tour player Tony Johnstone.
Westwood saw a chance to win his first world championship slip away in China earlier this month and on Sunday was only joint 48th out of 56 in Dubai, where he finished 19 shots behind Rory McIlroy.
McIlroy has not followed him to Africa but six Ryder Cup team-mates have – Justin Rose after his closing 62 at the weekend, Paul Lawrie, Nicolas Colsaerts, Peter Hanson, Francesco Molinari and Martin Kaymer.
Swede Carl Pettersson also plays and the line-up is completed by American Bill Haas and South Africans Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen and Garth Mulroy.
Nedbank Challenge The Lowdown
Course: Gary Player Country Club, Sun City
Prize Money: €3.87 (€966,000 to the winner)
Length: 7.832. Par: 72. Field: 12
Defending champion: Lee Westwood
Course: Very long but variety of trees can be used to to alter the yardage if bad weather interferes. Kikuya fairways and fast, bentgrass greens surrounded by bunkers, swales and mounds. Lengthening of course has made course tougher and only Henrik Stenson (21 under in 2008 ) has beaten it up in recent times. Two par fives on each nine but 596-yard ninth with island green makes players work hard for their birdies and the 601-yard 14th (green surrounded by large waste bunker) also challenging.
Weather: Fair start but showery weekend, light breeze.
Key attribute: Power.
TV: Sky Sports