Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Big bucks Lee set to make Euro history

Nice work: Lee Westwood can this weekend become the highest earner ever in European Tour history

Lee Westwood has the chance to achieve another milestone in his career this weekend — highest earner in European Tour history.

In a clear sign of the times the opportunity comes not in Europe, but in China at the WGC-HSBC Champions tournament where Westwood finished runner-up last year, one shot behind Francesco Molinari and nine clear of the rest.

For years the top of the career money list was fought out between Colin Montgomerie and Ernie Els.

Montgomerie, though, has not had a victory for well over four years and Els has not had even a top 10 finish on the circuit since he won the South African Open last December.

The 42-year-old still heads the table with £22.4million, but Westwood is now up to £22.2million and first prize in Shanghai is more than £720,000.

That figure is still dwarfed, of course, by the £1.25million won by Rory McIlroy across town on Sunday, but this event carries world ranking points and counts towards this season's European money list race.

Luke Donald, already with the PGA Tour number one tag in his pocket, leads by over £1million, but withdrew to stay with his wife Diane. She is expecting their second child at any time.

It was this time last year that Westwood went to world number one for the first time and he said: “I played like world number one in the tournament — unfortunately Francesco played a little bit better.”

The Italian finished 19 under par to his Ryder Cup team-mate's 18 under, with Donald and Scot Richie Ramsay next best at nine under.

Westwood cannot catch Donald on the world rankings this week, but having Ulsterman McIlroy — now his former stablemate — snapping at his heels ought to act as added incentive.

There are 16 years between them, but the 38-year-old commented: “I think that it's a game where I guess age is not such a big issue.

“The young lads that come out now obviously have a hunger for it and they seem they are almost professional before they come out.

“You have the likes of Tom Lewis, who won his third event on Tour in Portugal a few weeks back, and Matteo (Manassero) who's won a couple of times already and he's only 18.”

Twenty-year-old Lewis makes his World Golf Championships debut alongside Portrush’s Graeme McDowell, last year's US Open champion.

The Ulsterman appeared in crisis with his game at the weekend, though, as he failed to break 80 in the last two rounds of the Andalucia Masters.

“Hit every tree at Valderrama,” he said on his Twitter site. “Good swings are great but bad ones are out of control.”

Westwood plays with USPGA champion Keegan Bradley and Australian Adam Scott.

McIlroy's partners are Masters champion Charl Schwartzel — another former stablemate — and American Nick Watney.

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