When it is not Colin Montgomerie , it is Lee Westwood. If there was ever a doubt, the young Englishman proved once again that he -- along with the Scot -- are Europe's dominant players with a win Saturday at the Standard Life Loch Lomond.
Certainly Montgomerie needs no convincing. "Lee was the man to catch and it's good for him to win," Monty said. "He is the man to beat now every week. Him and me are the ones and that's great. It's super to have the competition."
Westwood's victory today, achieved by four strokes over Dennis Edlund, Ian Woosnam, Robert Allenby, Eduardo Romero and David Howell puts him back on top of the Volvo Ranking, above -- who else? -- Montgomerie.
Westwood closed with a 70 for an eight-under total of 276. He started the final round level with Edlund, who was second in the English Open last year, and led by two at the turn. Bogeys at the tenth, where he was in a bunker, and the 11th when he three-putted, proved a minor stumble.
Edlund also missed a short putt at the 11th and then birdied the 12th to draw level, but the 14th and 15th holes were decisive. Edlund laid up at the short par-4 14th, then went over the green with his second and only made the fringe with his third. His bogey-5 could have been more damaging had Westwood, who drove the green to 20 feet, not three-putted.
At the next, Edlund lost a ball off the tee and ended up taking a triple-bogey 7. Westwood, meanwhile, holed from 20 feet for a birdie and there was a four-shot swing.
This was Westwood's fourth win of the year, his seventh since last October and the tenth of his career. This is not the first time he has won the week before a major. His victory in the Freeport-McDermott Classic in New Orleans, his first in America, was the prelude to a 44th place finish in the Masters.
Since then Westwood has won back-to-back at the Deutsche Bank and English Opens in June. After his win in New Orleans, Westwood drove straight to to Augusta. This time, he'll spend two days at home in Worksop before going up to Birkdale.
That will give him some time to think about the $1 million bonus he'll earn f he can win two consecutive events for the second time this year. Loch Lomond sponsors offered the bonus to any player who wins this week and follows it up with a win at Birkdale as an inducement to play in their event.
"If I was to win the Open, the million dollars extra would be fantastic. But actually winning the Open means more to me," he said. "I'm playing well at the moment. Every day I'm playing better and better, getting my iron shots close as well. Hopefully I can keep it going for next week."
While Montgomerie closed with a 70, after birdieing two of the first three holes to suggest a charge that never occurred, and Tom Lehman a 72, Ian Woosnam left for Southport on a positive note with a closing 66. "It could have been very special," said the Welshman. "There could have been more than seven birdies and less than the two bogeys." "It could have been a 62. I need to hole a few more putts but my confidence is getting better for Birkdale."
Nick Faldo was on the practice putting green early in the morning and more encouraged about his chances of playing at Birkdale this week. All Faldo has been able to do since Wednesday is some one-handed putting after he pulled out of the tournament with an elbow injury less than an hour prior to his first round tee-time.
"The inflammation has gone down and considerably and that is a big relief," Faldo said. "I am 75 per cent better than on Wednesday. I am still undergoing intensive treatment and will be doing so right up until the Open."
When the three-time Open champion has not been subjected to ice and ultra-sound treatment on his right elbow, he has been wearing a soft cast to immobilise the elbow and wrist. Faldo intends to drive down to Southport this morning, walk the course in the afternoon and try to hit a few shots on Monday. "I can take the club back normally," he said.
His first outing on the course could be on Tuesday, and only then by playing off a tee peg all the way round. "Any problem I might have will come when I take a big divot, so that's why I'll use a tee to begin with. There is no point taking any risks. Hopefully, by Wednesday I'll be okay to play a proper practice round without the aid of a tee."
Faldo, who celebrates his 41st birthday on Saturday, has not missed an Open since making his debut in the championship at Birkdale in 1976, when he finished tied for 28th. Now that Jack Nicklaus has withdrawn, ending his streak of consecutive majors at 146, Faldo has the longest active run at 44. He hopes it will make 45. "Right now I am confident I'll be fit to play on Thursday."