Westwood defiant after losing Tour top spot

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 November, 2009, 12:00am

World number four Lee Westwood relinquished his top spot on the European Tour money list to Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy yesterday, but was not too upset as he believed he could wrest it back and still win The Race to Dubai's huge bonus pool of US$1.5 million next week.

The 36-year-old Englishman, who was making his Fanling debut and arrived as the headline act at the UBS Hong Kong Open, struggled to come to grips with the greens and finished poorly with a four-over-par 74 to total a one-under 279.

'I never got used to the greens all week,' Westwood said. 'I hit some putts today which I thought were great putts going in and they broke the opposite way. It was just a bit of a mystery.'

Despite starting promisingly with a first round of 66, Westwood soon lost his way and as the rounds progressed, seemed to be totally uninterested as he shot subsequent rounds of 70, 69 and a final 74.

'This week was just a bit of an off week, nothing really went for me and I couldn't get anything going,' Westwood said. 'I didn't quite have the enthusiasm going out there when you know you are struggling to make the putts - even the good putts were not going in and I knew it was just one of those weeks.'

Westwood had held the number-one spot on the money list and a Euro52,312 (HK$604,000) lead over second-placed McIlroy before the tournament began. But his poor performance saw him finish in joint-54th position, resulting in him trading places with McIlroy.

The 20-year-old McIlroy's runner-up position allowed him to build a healthy Euro128,172 lead going into the European Tour's season-ending Dubai World Championship at the Earth Course.

'This is where I wanted to be, at the top, going into the final tournament. I knew if I put in a good performance here, there was a good chance. Now the others have to chase me,' said world number 17 McIlroy. 'I suppose it is a consolation to not winning here.'

However, Westwood, who like McIlroy has earned more than Euro2 million this season and co-owns a private jet with fellow Ryder Cup-star Darren Clarke, was unfazed at what he felt was only a temporary setback. 'It's still in my hands. The difference between first and second next week is more than the difference here, so if I win next week, I win the [Race to Dubai) money list,' Westwood pointed out.

'That is what I set out to do at the start of the past few weeks, to make sure I was within the difference between first and second and I am going to be that,' he added.

The Hong Kong sojourn will be best forgotten, with Westwood saying that he would just put it all down to experience. 'I don't think this week is bad enough to throw me off kilter,' he said. 'I am fairly optimistic. I have been playing this game long enough not to let one week bother me.'

Westwood flew to Dubai last night to get an early look at the Greg Norman-designed course staging the event; he wants to get a head-start before the season's finale begins.

'I might try to play a few holes [on Monday] on the Earth Course, although I feel as if I need a day off. I know nothing about it, but it will be a new experience for everybody so they will all be in the same boat as I was this week having not played the course. The odds will slightly be more in my favour next week I guess.'