WESTWOOD THINKING BIG AGAIN

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After one of the biggest wins of the European Tour season Lee Westwood is now thinking big.

After one of the biggest wins of the European Tour season Lee Westwood is now thinking big.
At the start of this decade Westwood was European number one and ranked fourth in the world behind Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els.
He then fell outside the top 250 in a nightmare slump but, having turned things right round again, believes he can reach those dizzy heights again. Today’s new ranking list should see back up to around 30th.
A five-stroke victory over Ian Poulter in the British Masters at The Belfry yesterday (Sunday) was achieved with a brilliant closing 65, the round of the day by two.
“I would love to get back in the top five – and I think I can do it,” said Westwood, £300,000 richer and the seventh player to top £10million in European Tour earnings.
“There’s still a lot of the year left. I haven’t looked at the Order of Merit for about six years, but I might have a look tonight.”
The 34-year-old from Worksop will find himself in 12th place, but if he can add the Dunhill Links championship in Scotland in two weeks’ time – he was the 2003 winner – he could leap all the way into second spot behind Open champion Padraig Harrington.
Five months ago Westwood had not won anywhere for four years, but he broke that barren spell in Spain and since Ryder Cup qualifying started three weeks ago he has finished sixth, sixth and now first.
Last year he needed a wildcard from Ian Woosnam to be part of the European line-up at the K Club.
He responded with a superb four points out of five, winning two emotional matches with Darren Clarke in the fourballs, halving twice in the foursomes with Colin Montgomerie as his partner and then beating Chris DiMarco in the singles.
Nick Faldo has now taken over as captain and while he might regret not having Westwood in his Britain and Ireland side taking on Continental Europe in the Seve Trophy in Ireland this week – Westwood qualified, but wants to rest – he will be delighted that one of Europe’s star performers has begun the points race so well.
Despite Poulter’s efforts to grab his first win of the season six days before his marriage, he could only applaud the performance of his 2005 Ryder Cup teammate.
“All credit to Lee,” he said. “It’s nice to see a British winner, but unfortunately it wasn’t me.”
Westwood joins Colin Montgomerie, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke and Bernhard Langer in taking his earnings as a member of the circuit through the £10million barrier.
Long-time leader Mark Foster saw his chance go when he hooked out of bounds on the 13th, but while he had to be disappointed with third place there were two very happy golfers just behind him.
Being part of a seven-way tie for fourth spot earned two more English players, Sam Walker and Zane Scotland, nearly £58,000 and their cards for next season after starting the week 128th and 136th on the money list.
For Scotland that is extra special because he will finally become a member eight years after qualifying for The Open at the age of 16.
He has achieved the feat in a mere seven starts this season, relying mostly on invitations.
Eighteen-year-old Rory McIlroy, meanwhile, finished his first professional event in a tie for 42nd and earned £10,440.
The Northern Ireland youngster will not mind being reminded that Woods finished only 60th on his debut – but he did then go 11th, fifth, third and first.
McIlroy’s aim is to try to win a further £130,000 from coming invites – possibly as many as four more – to avoid the Tour qualifying school.
Mark Garrod, PA Sport Golf Correspondent

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