Irish golfing legend Des Smyth and now Irish citizen Mark McNulty now have Lee Westwood for European Tour record-setting company.
Westwood’s two-shot Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship success has seen the 46-year old England golfer join Smyth and McNulty as the only golfers in European Tour history to win over four decades.
Westwood shut-out his Abu Dhabi rivals with a powerhouse last day 67 and win with a 19-under par tally in the UAE capital. The win is Westwood’s 44th worldwide and his 25th on the European Tour and with victory set to lift Westwood from 63rd to 29th on the World Rankings.
“It’s been a good week,” he said smiling. I can’t believe I’m old. It’s getting harder to win.” Westwood claimed a first Tour win in 1996, a 10th in 2000, a 21st in 2011 and now matches in his first event of 2020 the efforts of Smyth and McNulty.
Smyth first tasted a main European Tour success in 1979, a second win in 1980, a seventh in 1993 and an eighth and last Tour win in 2001.
The Zimbabwean born McNulty, who now calls Ireland home, captured a first of 16 Tour wins in 1979, a second in 1980, a ninth in 1990 and then a 16th and final Tour event in 2001.
Westwood also has given him a big step-up towards a playing position in Padraig Harrington’s 2020 European Tour Ryder Cup team in lieu, and as most expect, to be heading to Whistling Straits without his clubs. “I am not sure if I can take any more Ryder Cup,” said Westwood and a veteran of 10 European Ryder Cup sides.
“It’s was good watching the lads last time but then if it a chance of making the team I might as well go for it. “It’s just nice to come out and prove you’ve still got it.”
And Westwood’s New Year goal to stay ‘dry’ was sure to be severely tested in the hours after his victory ahead of heading the some 70-minute drive north to Dubai for this coming week’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
“I decided to do ‘dry’ in January, which right now seems a massive mistake (smiling) and I’ll do really well to get through tonight without a drink,” he said.
“Everybody’s offering me one, but I’ve held out so far. Normally you’d see me with a glass of champagne or Corona in hand, but I’ve managed not to have a drink so far. I’ll give you an update tomorrow whether I’m still committed to the cause.
“So, I would like to. I would like to get right through the next two weeks and then we’ll see. I’m trying to lose a bit of weight, so I can’t really drink.”
Westwood was asked on the range in Dubai, and if he was to be approached by one of the newer and much younger generation of Tour players, what advice he would tender.
“Firstly, I’ll have no idea who most of them are,” he said smiling. “I suddenly realized a few months ago why everyone has their name on their golf bags; it’s for people like me walking along there asking, who is that lad on the range hitting it 330 yards?”
“Though I’m always open to people coming and asking questions and my answer would be hard work. Yeah, you’ve got to be dedicated and you’ve got to love it and you’ve got to love practicing. Because there’s no shortcuts. It’s just hard work.
“When you think about leaving the range in one afternoon, going and sitting by the pool or having a beer or something like that (shaking head) stay on the range another hour.
“A few years back, there was Tiger (Woods), myself and Vijay (Singh) were the last three on the range, and it wasn’t a coincidence that the best players are the hardest workers.”