Monday, 29 September 2008

Westwood faces a Spanish Inquisition and can't come up with the answers...

The Golden moments of the British Masters, set to Spandau Ballet

You fancied Lee Westwood to push on and take the British Masters yesterday afternoon. After picking up four more shots to par in the morning he looked in good nick. Michael Campbell was the only man of real note to be up with him, the rest were at least three behind, all minnows to the big Fish Westwood. Yet it was from one of these minnows that the challenge arose. Playing in threes after the fog delays, the 10 under col-leaders Westwood and Campbell were joined by the little known Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez Castano, on seven under. If it was going to go down to the wire, who would have guessed it would be the Kiwi who would be out of the game.

Three birdies and two bogeys on the front nine had Westwood onto 11 under at the turn. Birdies at 4 & 5 got Castano to nine under. Campbell remained on 10 under with one birdie one bogey.

The par four 10th hole again had it's tee pushed forward to let the players have a cut at the green in one. Reachable for Westwood with a 5 wood he duly knocked it onto the back fringe of the green. Castano made it too. Campbell, watched as his ball struck the edge of the green only to take a leftward bounce and plop in the water running in front of the green. That meant he got a drop on the edge of the green for three. Cunningly he dropped right into a sprinkler head, apparently legal as the chief ref John Paramore was standing next to him, from which he was allowed one club lengths free relief. This allowed him to move about a metre to the right, and now the edge of the water hazard was no longer in his way and he had a clear putt. Again this was apparently legal yet it seemed to be very much gaining an advantage in the mot devious of fashions. Karma stepped in though, his dropping shenanigans came to nought as he three putted to drop back to nine under. A chip for Westwood from the edge was decent, but he didn't make the putt - Castano made hay as he dropped his birdie effort, one ahead of Campbell now, one behind Westwood.

It seemed Castano was not going to keep it up however as he was way right with his tee shot on the par three 12th, an awful shot, his dab out second had him into some short rough with water still between him and the green. It looked like it would be a miracle if he got it close, but audaciously the Spaniard went and chipped it right in the hole for his par. Post round Lee Westwood admitted that at that moment he had a feeling things were going to go Castano's way.

Again wide right on 13 Castano hit another beautiful pitch to a few feet for his birdie. Suddenly he was level with Westwood on 11 under. The 14th saw Campbell getting in on things again, holing a long one to draw within one once more. Then it was birdies all round on the par five 15th. Campbell went bogey, birdie on 16 and 17, the others taking pars to leave it Westwood, Castano -12, Campbell -11 as they played the last.

Campbell could found short rough with his tee shot, Castano found the fairway bunker, Westwood, taking a 3 wood blasted it up the middle as usual for him. Castano went for it with a long iron and went way, way left. As he got to the green he apologised to the grey haired lady his ball had smacked on the thigh - she would hear nothing of it, made of strong stuff. If it hadn't struck her it would likely have ended up on the 9th green next to the 18th. Campbell took an almighty lash at his second from the rough, needing to make birdie on an 18th which had yielded only five birdies all day. It landed right at the front of the green, two long tiers below the pin on the massive green. Westwood, in prime position hits the heart of the green on the right level. It looks good for him to take the title now.

Campbell can only get his ball up one of the tiers as he under hits his chip. He eventually takes bogey to grab third on his own on ten under. All eyes turn to Castano, in a sticky lie above the green, it's a horrible shot he faces. His short game had been impeccable all day though, and once more his pitching comes to his rescue, getting it to stop four feet from the hole, He makes par. Westwood has a mid-range putt for the win but it's a little hard and a little wide and it's off back up the 18th for Castano and Westwood for the play-off.

It took three repetitions of the 18th hole to separate them. Despite having much shorter clubs in his hand for his approaches, Westwood kept finding the back edge of the green and could only make par. The second go around, Castano had again hit it way left and hit a member of the crowd but was able to produce another sensational up and down to stay in it.

The third play-off hole saw Castano take Westwood's little spot at the back edge of the green and a fine putt ensured his par four. Westwood, now looking as though the long day had caught up with him couldn't make a 10 footer to match him. The title was Gonzalo Fernadez-Castano's. What a name. What a man. A victory for sublime recovery shots over big booming driving.

Westwood has the consolation that his performance has taken him into second on the Order of merit behind Padraig Harrington, though he still has some 228,000 Euro's to make up on the Irish back to back Major winner.

European Tour Order of Merit After British Masters, in Euros

1 Padraig Harrington (Irl) 2,350,556
2 Lee Westwood (Eng)2,122,239
3 Robert Karlsson (Swe) 1,994,436
4 Miguel Angel Jimenez (Spa) 1,990,609
5 Henrik Stenson (Swe) 1,773,617
6 Graeme McDowell (NIrl) 1,714,882
7 Vijay Singh (Fij) 1,632,384
8 Ross Fisher (Eng) 1,320,740
9 Oliver Wilson (Eng) 1,227,711
10 Jeev Milkha Singh (Ind) 1,138,015

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