SUN CITY, South Africa -- 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 on this side of the Atlantic and 24th on the PGA Tour, is the defending champion both at this week's Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa and next week's Thailand Golf Championship. Both events will bring back memories of some of the best golf of his career last year.
The 12-man all-star field is battling for the $1.25 milion winner's purse in the granddaddy of golf's high-profile off-season exhibitions.
At Sun City, the 39-year-old world No. 6 had a course-record 62 in the third round last year and went on to make it two wins in a row in golf’s richest offseason exhibition. 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 on Wednesday.
"You just have to look at the names on the trophy to realize how special it is," he added. "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 England to Florida, has added wins in Indonesia and Sweden this season, but there have been plenty of disappointments, too. After a third-place finish at the Masters and then a 10th in the U.S. Open, he managed only 45th in the British Open and missed the cut at the PGA Championship.
That left him still without a major win in 59 attempts and brought a split with coach Pete Cowen and caddie Mike Waite, and since then he also has stopped working on his short game with ex-Tour player Tony Johnstone.
Westwood saw a chance to win his first World Golf Championship slip away in China earlier this month, and on Sunday was only tied for 48th out of 56 players in Dubai, where he finished 19 shots behind Rory McIlroy.
The world No. 1 hasn’t followed him to Africa, but six Ryder Cup teammates have -- Justin Rose after his closing 62 at the weekend, along with Paul Lawrie, Nicolas Colsaerts, Peter Hanson, Francesco Molinari and Martin Kaymer.
Sweden’s Carl Pettersson is also playing, and the line-up is completed by American Bill Haas and South Africans Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen and Garth Mulroy.