PHUKET: Lee Westwood claimed the inaugural Thailand Golf Championship and a US$158,000 prize purse last Sunday at the Amata Spring Country Club in Chonburi.
The 38-year-old from England fired a three-under-par 69 in the final round to defeat South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel by seven shots following a four-shot overnight lead.
Westwood’s 22-under-par 266 aggregate total, fourth victory of 2011 and 37th career now moves him up to second place on the World Golf Ranking table.
Masters champion Schwartzel narrowed the lead down to three shots on the back nine with an eagle on the 11th hole, but a bogey on 14 ended his challenge as Westwood cruised home.
A career low of 60 in the opening round and a 64 on the second day matched the Asian Tour’s 36-hole record of 20-under-par, but a 73 on day three put paid to any further heroics in the Asian Tour’s final tournament of the 2011 season.
"It means a lot. Any win does. It’s special this week because of the difficulty of the golf course, and whom I was up against over the weekend. Charl [Schwartzel] is the Masters champion and he’s had a great year. Twenty under after two rounds, it’s yours to lose really with an 11 shot lead. There was pressure involved," said Westwood.
The way I putted on the back nine was great. It means a lot, gives me a lot of confidence. I’ve been working on this for the past four or five weeks and it was time to hole some of these under pressure," he said.
Schwartzel lamented his bogey on 14, but admitted he was up against an inspired opponent.
"I pulled him back to within three shots after 11 holes. It felt pretty good especially against a player like Lee. He made two great birdies on 12 and 13. I had a very bad lie on 14 and made bogey. That was a big swing there. If it wasn’t for Lee, I would have probably won the tournament," said the 27-year-old.
Michael Thompson of the United States claimed third place while local Thai star Chawalit Plaphol finished tied fourth to emerge as the top Asian finisher alongside England’s Simon Dyson on 276.
It was a day of drama for the Tour hopefuls with South African Keith Horne securing 61st place on the Order of Merit to claim the final Tour card for 2012 ahead of Filipino teenager Miguel Tabuena by a mere US$250. Dutchman Guido Van Der Valk jumped from 83rd to 59th after finishing a creditable sixth with a 73.