It’s Westwood – by eight clear shots!

Lee Westwood has held on to his World No 1 ranking with an emphatic eight-shot victory at the Nedbank Golf Challenge.

Lee Westwood held on to his World No 1 ranking with an emphatic eight-shot victory at the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City on Sunday.

The 37-year-old Englishman produced another super-solid round of golf to shoot an equal-best of the day 68 and win $1,250,000 in a magnificently composed performance that never allowed his pursuers to seriously threatened him on a Gary Player Country Club course made tricky by a swirling wind.

The five-week old World No 1 , who stressed before he teed off on Sunday that big leads were never a guarantee of victory and could never be sat on, started the day five shots clear of Tim Clark and Ross Fisher, and in his own words, “thanks to a fast start” birdie at the 2nd, set himself up for an unstoppable march to a famous victory in the 30th edition of this end of season invitational where even the 12th and last player (Louis Oosthuizen) earned $250,000.

Further birdies at the 9th and 10th strengthened his lead against opponents who were struggling to break par before he ran into a little trouble at the 17th and inconsequentially picked up just his 4th bogey of the week.

Did it slow his momentum? Not on your nelly!

In fact if it did anything, it spurred him on to the shot of the day – a chip in for birdie at the 18th from some green side rough where he had hit a safety first approach.

The shot which enabled him to finish at 17-under 271. had the usually mild-mannered Westwood gesticulating enthusiastically and smiling broadly as it raised a huge roar from the thousands who packed the amphitheater of temporary stands surrounding the green

Like everyone, the gallery saw his victory as a reward for four days of magnificent, near-flawless golf in which there was never a glimpse of any weakness in any part of his rock-solid game.

Indeed he played the kind of golf that will almost certainly win him majors next year if he can maintain his equilibrium and his sky-high quality ball striking.

Clark, the raining Players Champion in the USA and another of the game’s most consistent competitors, dropped a shot at the first and missed a succession of birdie chances before finally getting putts to drop at 10, 11 and 16.

Like Westwood, the South African bogeyed the 17th, but he scrambled a par at the last as he nailed an eight-foot putt to finish at 9-under after a closing 1-under 71 and snatch outright second, one shot ahead of compatriot Retief Goosen and Spanish eccentric Miguel Angel Jimenez for the $650,000 second prize.

Goosen matched Westwood’s best of the day score with a five-birdie 68 while Jimenez birdied the last with a matador flourish for a 71, but Ross Fisher could not recover from bogeys at the first two holes and slipped back from being Westwood’s challenger-in-chief in the early rounds to finish with a disappointing 75 and all of 12 shots behind Westwood on a difficult day when only the top four finishers broke par.

A stomach bug which weakened him for much of the final two rounds, clearly played a role in Fisher’s weekend fizzle – just as it did in Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, performance in the final three rounds.

Westwood’s caddie Billy Foster also suffered with stomach bug flu, but fortunately it did not prevent Westwood winning handsomely

Looking back on his spectacular chip at 18 during the prize-giving, Westwood quipped: “I think that’s the first time I’ve chipped in all year.”That’s what you call a grand stand finish. It was certainly a good time to do it.”

It was the Worksop native’s first win in 12 attempts at Sun City and his Sun City break-through was warmly welcomed by a man who will be now able to enjoy Christmas as the World’s best golfer, regardless of what Tiger Woods does at the Chevron World Challenge later on Sunday.

“I’ve been coming here for several years and it’s a title I’ve always wanted to win. I’ve come close a few times, lost in a play-off to Ernie Els, but it’s always been a very special target.”
Westwood said getting off to a “fast start” had made him “very comfortable” throughout the final round.
“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. The finish was tough, so I was just pleased to get it done at the end.”
Amongst the rest of the 12-man field, Ernie Els and Fisher were tied fifth on five 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 three under.
Dane Anders Hansen (76) and Englishman Justin Rose (72) were a stroke further back, with Edoardo Molinari (76) one under and Louis Oosthuizen (74) two over.