Lee Westwood cemented his year-end No. 1 ranking with an eight-shot win at the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City on Sunday.
The Englishman closed with a 4-under 68, chipping in from the fringe at No. 18 for a birdie to finish at 17-under 271 at the Gary Player Country Club.
2010 NEDBANK GOLF CHALLENGE
The $5 million Nedbank Golf Challenge is often referred to as "Africa's major."
“It was the stuff that dreams are made of, I guess,” Westwood said of the shot that nestled in the cup in front of a packed gallery. “I didn’t want to get ahead of myself, but I knew I was playing well. It was a professional round, I thought. Recently, I really felt there was a good week coming.”
The 37-year-old Westwood had led the 12-player field since Friday and was unchallenged on the final day to win his first Nedbank title in his seventh attempt, collecting $1.25 million for the victory in the $5 million event that has been one of the highlights of the unofficial calendar for 30 years now.
Westwood started out with rounds of 68, 64 and 71, finishing with five birdies and a bogey Sunday to secure the top ranking for the remainder of 2010, regardless of who wins the Chevron World Challenge later in the day or triumphs in the Australian PGA Championship or South African Open later this month.
South Africa’s Tim Clark rolled in a 7-foot putt on 18 to save par, earning a 71 that clinched second place at 9 under one stroke ahead of compatriot Retief Goosen and Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez.
“I had a pretty good idea what was at stake there (with the putt on 18),” said Clark, who bogeyed his first hole of the day and never threatened a dominant Westwood despite three birdies in his back nine.
“I don’t think it would have been possible to catch Lee today,” Clark said. “There’s no question he is the world’s No. 1. It’s not just points on a sheet. I think he has that belief right now.”
South African Goosen matched Westwood's round-of-the-day 68 -- his effort included five birdies and a bogey -- to finish on 8 under, tied for third alongside Spain’s Jimenez, who was the only other player to end the day with an under-par effort after his 71.
Among the rest of the 12-man field, Ernie Els and Ross Fisher were tied fifth on 5 under after final rounds of 73 and 75, respectively, while Ireland's Padraig Harrington (75) and defending champion Robert Allenby (72) of Australia ended on 3 under. Denmark’s Anders Hansen (76) and Englishman Justin Rose (72) were a stroke further back, with Edoardo Molinari (76) 1 under and Louis Oosthuizen (74) 2 over.
The 37-year-old Westwood was looking good to go through his final day without dropping a shot, but suffered one blip on the par-4 17th. However, he made amends with a remarkable chip-in for birdie in front of a packed gallery on the par-4 18th.
"I think that's the first time I chipped in all year," Westwood joked afterward. "That's what you call a grandstand finish. It was a good time to do it."
It capped a fine 2010 season for Westwood, who took over as the world No. 1 from Tiger Woods at the end of October, despite the win being his first of the year.
"I've been coming here for several years and it's a title I've always wanted to win,” Westwood said. “I've come close a few times, lost in the play-offs, but it's always very special."
Despite carrying a five-shot lead over Clark and Fisher heading into the last day, Westwood conceded that victory at the start was by no means a foregone conclusion.
"It's never over. It's sometimes even more pressure having a big lead because it's yours to blow,” he said. "But I got off to a fast start and I got a few in front, so I felt pretty comfortable especially when I birdied nine and 10.
"It was a nice back nine, still tricky with the strong wind and the way it was swirling around,” he added. “The finish was tough, so I was just pleased to get it done at the end."