Lee Westwood lived up to his billing as World Number One with a stunning final round to take the Ballantine’s Championship in South Korea.
The Englishman, who climbed to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking with victory in Indonesia last week, spoke before this tournament of wanting to deliver a performance befitting his new status.
He certainly did so today, defying the pressure of expectation to shoot a superb 67 and make a decisive charge up the leaderboard late on an elongated day at the Blackstone GC Course.
It secured his 21st European Tour title, but his first since 2009, and lifted him to €653,508 in The Race to Dubai.
He finished on 12 under, one shot clear of close friend and joint overnight leader Miguel Angel Jiménez, who ultimately paid the price for carding two bogeys in the first four holes of the outward nine in the last round.
A birdie on the last for Jiménez – as he had done earlier in the day during the completion of the rain interrupted third round – would have taken the tournament into a playoff, but he missed the decisive putt from 15 feet.
“It feels great,” said Westwood. “I must admit it was nerve-racking sitting there watching people play. I don’t obviously wish ill on [Jiménez] but over those last three holes I wasn’t cheering for him to make a birdie.
“I’m delighted. Professional golf is all about winning and it’s great to do it back-to-back two weeks in a row. It was nice to come back from last week and get it all together.”
Jimenez was quick to congratulate Westwood and the latter revealed they enjoyed dinner together last night.
“We had a nice bottle of red and after dinner I said ‘I’ll see you in the playoff tomorrow’ and it nearly went that way,” Westwood said.
Although Westwood failed to save par after resuming his third round on the 13th, he responded by birdying the 14th and 17th to begin the final round three shots off the lead.
He barely put a foot wrong thereafter, while Jiménez, by contrast, found sand on the 14th, 15th and 18th as his attempts to repair the early damage foundered.
“That’s the game,” Jiménez said. “I made four rounds under par for 11‑under, and that’s not good enough.”
Westwood added: “It’s a difficult course because it goes around the hills and it’s difficult to pick the wind up; it swirls a lot.
“It was very tough and to go around without making a bogey, five birdies and 13 pars was a special round of golf.”
South Korean Park Sang-hyun ended his week in sensational fashion, firing an eagle on the par five 18th to delight the home crowd and climb into third place on 10 under.
His closing round 69 was matched by American Dustin Johnson, who finished one shot further adrift, while Hong Soon-sang, another Korean to impress on his own turf, also went round in 69 to finish tied for fifth with Alex Noren, the Swede.
Noren began the final round on 10 under, boasting a share of the lead with Jiménez and Welshman Rhys Davies, but five bogeys, including three on the back nine, on an erratic day cost him his chance of victory.
Jbe Kruger, from South Africa, and Westwood’s compatriot James Morrison finished six under par alongside Australian Brett Rumford, who recovered partially from a poor finish to the third round and start to the last after resuming today as joint leader with Jiménez.
Three Koreans – Mo Joong-kyung, Kim Kyung-tae and Kim Dae-hyun – were a shot further back after each broke par today.
Davies, meanwhile, carded a disappointing 77 that was marred by an eight on the par four, 448 yard 12th. He eventually took a share of 13th place.
Westwood reserved high praise for the tournament and the local support, saying: “The fans were very good, very supportive and it just shows the keenness of the Korean public to come out and watch people they have seen on TV. It has been a great week.”