Lee Westwood makes it four decades of European Tour success with win in Abu Dhabi

Lee Westwood shows off the iconic Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship trophy after his two-shot win in the Rolex Series event
Lee Westwood shows off the iconic Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship trophy after his two-shot win in the Rolex Series event
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Lee Westwood, eh? There's life in the old dog yet. With his 47th birthday on the horizon, the Englishman chalked up his 25th European Tour title and 44th success worldwide with an impressive victory in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

The Worksop man, who recorded his first win in the Scandinavian Masters in 1996, has now tasted success in four decades, joining Des Smyth and Mark McNulty as the only players to achieve that feat.

"That's the one," said Westwood of hearing that being announced at the start of his winner's press conference at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. "Four different decades. Feel really old when somebody says that.

"But I've been out here a long time, this is my 28th season. I'd like to add a few more to that. But I think it just shows the level I've played at for such a long time and longevity in sport is difficult to achieve."

An English winner always looked on the cards in the opening Rolex Series event of the new decade after Westwood, the overnight leader, found himself being chased by a couple of his compatriots, two-time winner Tommy Fleetwood and Matt Fitzpatrick.

From out of nowhere, Dundee-based Frenchman Victor Perez then surged into contention, last year's Alfred Dunhill Links champion setting the clubhouse target with a 17-under-par as he finished birdie-eagle for a sensational closing 63.

Fleetwood, who had raced to the turn in 30 on his 29th birthday, matched that effort in the next group to finish on the same aggregate, with Fitzpatrick joining them as he finished with a birdie in signing off with a bogey-free 67.

Two ahead with three to play, Westwood dropped his only shot of the day after missing the green at the par-4 16th, but he wasn't going to be denied. He followed a solid par at the 17th by hitting two majestic blows to find the green at the 18th.

It was job done as he two-putted for a birdie, with Billy Foster, his old caddie who is now on Fitzpatrick's bag, being among the first to congratulate the winner as he made his way off the green.

"Fantastic, really. Ecstatic, elated, a bit emotional," said Westwood of how felt about landing a second Rolex Series success, having also won the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa at the end of the 2018 season. "It's just great to keep playing well and know you are still good enough.

"It's been a good week as I played some quality golf. I wasn't really paying any attention to what other people were doing (in the final round). A little slip up at 16, but I hit some good shots coming in, and I am really pleased with the way I controlled myself."

The former world No 1 had already secured an invitation for The Masters in April and is projected to climb back in the top 30 in the world rankings from 63rd on the back of this victory.

He's played in ten Ryder Cups, the last of which was on a losing side at Hazeltine in 2016, and one more playing appearance could well be a possibility now before he inevitably serves as European captain.

"I thought I was done in the Ryder Cup, to be honest, as a player. I've played ten and I really enjoyed watching everybody else suffer in the last one.

"But you know, obviously if there's a chance of that, then I might as well go for it. It's nice just to come out and keep proving that you've still got it."

If he keeps up performances like this, Perez could also be a strong contender for Padraig Harrington's side for September's match at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.

"I felt like I had a really good off-season preparing for the upcoming 2020 season, and obviously very pleased to be able to do that in the fourth round of the first event of the year," said the 27-year-old, who lives in Dundee with his girlfriend.

Referring to his breakthrough win in the Dunhill last October, he added: "I think it shows you that you can do it at that level and you come into these types of tournaments feeling a lot more comfortable compared to 12 months ago when this was my second Rolex Series event."

In his first appearance for three months following a knee injury, world No 1 Brooks Koepka closed with a 69 to finish joint-34th on eight-under.