Lee Westwood holds his nerve to claim victory
Lee Westwood ended his long wait for a second PGA Tour victory after he defeated Sweden's Robert Karlsson in a sudden-death play-off as the St Jude Classic reached a dramatic conclusion in Memphis last night.
After numerous near-misses in the past three seasons, including top-three finishes at the 2008 US Open and 2009 US PGA championships as well as the runner-up spot in this year's Masters and a tie for fourth at The Players last month, Westwood completed the perfect preparation for the US Open at Pebble Beach with victory at the fourth play-off hole. The world number three, without a victory in the United States since the 1998 Freeport-McDermott Classic in New Orleans, had looked out of contention at TPC Southwind as American Robert Garrigus took a three-shot lead to the 72nd hole, only to triple bogey and send the event into a three-way sudden-death play-off with he and Karlsson.
There was further woe for Garrigus as they went to sudden death at the 18th, the American avoiding the water this time but overcooking his tee shot and sending his ball directly behind a tree, from which he could only bogey as the Europeans parred.
Three play-off holes could not separate Westwood and Karlsson as they parred the par-three 11th and then each bogeyed the 12th after missing with side-by-side putts from five feet. Back on the 18th for the fourth play-off hole, Westwood took the initiative as he sent in a pitching wedge to four feet after Karlsson sent an eight iron to around 35 feet from the flag. Karlsson's putt rolled just wide, leaving Westwood needing his first birdie in 17 holes to secure his much-longed for win.
Westwood and Karlsson had been beneficiaries of Garrigus' anxiety as he tried to close out his maiden victory. After a hat-trick of birdies on the front nine at the par-70 course, Westwood parred his way around while overnight leader Garrigus recovered from two early bogeys to tie the Englishman at the top of the leaderboard with birdies at the eighth and 10th.
And the American moved ahead with further birdies at the 15th and 16th while Westwood bogeyed the 17th after just missing a par putt from the fringe of the green. That gave Garrigus a three-stroke lead heading to the last and when Westwood missed a birdie putt at the last to finish on 10 under par, it looked as if his chance was gone.
There was more drama, though, as Garrigus sent his tee shot into water to the left of the dog-legged 18th fairway and then, having taken a drop, sent his second shot into trees on the way to a triple-bogey seven.