Described as one of the best shots of his life, Lee Westwood stormed to victory at the Nedbank Golf Challenge on the back of a monumental birdie on the 17th, writes WADE PRETORIUS in Sun City.
The veteran Englishman was flawless on Sunday as he remained calm in the heat of battle with the blistering sun beating down at Gary Player Country Club.
If it was a two-horse race in the minds of the locals, Westwood never gave up and showed his class countering the leading pair’s advantage with an exquisite approach into the par-five 2nd hole. Rather coolly, he rolled in the putt and was set on the path to enter the heavyweight clash.
From that hole, it was Louis Oosthuizen, South Africa’s top-ranked player, desperate to follow the example set last year by Branden Grace, against 2017 Masters champion Sergio Garcia and England’s Westwood, until today on a four-year hiatus from the European Tour winner’s circle.
The turn seemed to shift all momentum towards Oosthuizen, who safely boarded the 9th green in two and converted for birdie with Garcia missing his chance to gain a shot. Shortly before, Westwood was left to rue his own miss. The 45-year-old Englishman then missed again on the 10th with the Spaniard unable to capitalise on his expertly played second into the par five and Oosthuizen got the crowd roaring with a scrambling birdie.
It was a case of three in a row for Oosthuizen after he rolled in a putt over 30 feet on the 11th as he took a two-shot lead into the demanding back nine.
Westwood then emerged as the main protagonist to potential local heartbreak as he produced one of the best streaks in his career.
Birdies at the 11th, 13th and 14th helped him close the gap following Oosthuizen’s bogey on the 12th and when Westwood stoked in his birdie on the par-three 16th, he was leading after the South African’s failure to two-putt the 15th.
Then came the moment that sealed the destination of the crystal ball as Westwood left himself with a 7-iron in the penultimate green, one of the key holes in shaping the entire tournament. The Englishman later admitted that that shot was the knockout punch as the pressure piled up on the duo behind him.
A regulation par on the 18th together with Oosthuizen’s failure to hole out on the 17th reduced the now three-time NGC champion to tears – tears of joy and relief. And of course, sweet satisfaction as he left the media clutching a rather depleted bottle of champagne.
One imagines that won’t be the only one shared into the late hours of Sunday.