Abu Dhabi: Lee Westwood held his nerve to claim his 44th professional title at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on Sunday.
The European Tour veteran shot a five-under-par 67 to finish on -19, two shots ahead of fellow Englishmen Tommy Fleetwood and Matthew Fitzpatrick, and France’s Victor Perez.
Fleetwood rattled in nine birdies on a bogey-free day for a brilliant 63 while Perez matched that score and set the pulses racing with an eagle on the last while Westwood was still out on the course.
Fitzpatrick carded a 67, with five birdies, but was left counting the cost of three bogeys in the third round that left him playing catch up.
Despite Fleetwood and Perez’s brilliant rounds, the day belonged to Westwood, who registered six birdies and survived a scare on the par-four 16 where he dropped his only shot of the day.
But he soon rediscovered his cool head and a birdie on the last served to confirm his dominance and he was all smiles as he celebrated his first title since November 2018.
Given his longevity on the golfing scene — he turned professional back in 1993 — Westwood seemed to savour this title just as much as the 43 that came before, if not that little bit more.
“I wasn’t really paying any attention to what other people were doing, I was trying to control me, control my emotions and control what I’m working on in the golf swing,” he said. “I just managed to do that. I had a little slip-up at 16 but I am really just pleased with the way I controlled myself.”
The 43-year-old was also realistic about what the future holds as the seven-time Ryder Cup winner works on adjusting his game to accommodate his ageing body. “I’m not sure I can take any more Ryder Cups,” he added. “But you know, obviously if there’s a chance of that, then I might as well go for it. It’s nice just to come out and keep proving that you’ve still got it.”
Despite missing out on his second European Tour title, a magnanimous Perez, the 2019 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship winner, was still delighted with his week’s work in Abu Dhabi.
“I felt like I had a really good off-season preparing for the upcoming 2020 season, and obviously very pleased to be able to hold a fourth round on the first event of the year,” said Perez. “It’s one of those things, I started to make a few putts. I feel like I putted very well this week, which is always needed for this kind of performance and obviously delighted.”
Fleetwood was full of praise for Westwood. “Every time, every week we play, somebody is going to play great golf and at the moment that’s Lee,” said the 2017 and 2018 Abu Dhabi champion. “I’m very, very happy with my weekend. I felt like I played some really good golf.”
Fitzpatrick added: “Apart from one missed putt, I wouldn’t take a shot back, and to come off the golf course, that’s a great feeling, despite not enough to win, it’s been a great week.”
South Africa’s 2010 Open Championship winner Louis Oosthuizen settled for fifth spot.
Bernd Wiesberger, who was in second spot after the third round alongside Francesco Laporta, had a torrid round with two early bogeys and finished down in eighth place.
Laporta had an even worse day as his two-over 74 plunged him down the leaderboard to joint-17th.
1. L WESTWOOD (ENG) -19
2. V PEREZ (FRA) -17
2. T FLEETWOOD (ENG) -17
2. M FITZPATRICK -17
5. L OOSTHUIZEN (RSA) -15
6. S NORRIS (RSA) -14
6. R FISHER (ENG) -14
8. M KAYMER (GER) -13
8. S JAMIESON (SCO) -13
8. S GARCIA (ESP) -13
8. B WIESBERGER (AUT) -13
12. E VAN ROOYEN (RSA) -12
12. P WARING (ENG) -12