x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Westwood left in the cold

The win eludes the Englishman again this year, as he fails to retain title in play-off against Spaniard Fernandez-Castano.

Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano of Spain celebrates in the lake after beating Lee Westwood in a play-off at the Belfry.
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano of Spain celebrates in the lake after beating Lee Westwood in a play-off at the Belfry.

SUTTON COLDFIELD // Lee Westwood is up to second on the European Order of Merit - but not quite in the way he had hoped. Westwood narrowly failed to retain his Quinn Insurance British Masters title at The Belfry on Sunday night, losing on the third hole of a play-off to the Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.

But although he failed to capitalise on holding a three-stroke lead with 10 holes to play, the Ryder Cup player, 35, is not going to beat himself up about it. "When you don't play your best golf and get in a play-off you takes positives from that," said Westwood. "I just struggled with my swing all day. "I didn't feel under control at any point and paid for it. I plugged away and kept hanging around and tried to graft it out."

Last year's five-shot victory in the same event remains his last success, but he has now had 14 top-10s since then and with the £200,000 (Dh1.32m) cheque - Fernandez-Castano took home £300,000 - he has brought his cup teammate Padraig Harrington within range at the top of the money list. Five weeks remain in that race and both are at this week's Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland. Harrington's lead is down to just under £180,000 and on that Westwood commented: "I made some inroads, but I am still missing a win this year.

"Everyone else has won and they are the really big cheques, so that shows the consistency I'm at." Victory would have taken him into the world's top 10 for the first time since 2001 and, having fallen outside the top 260 in that time, his comeback is truly impressive. Of the Order of Merit events left, Harrington is planning to play only this week and the season-ending Volvo Masters at Valderrama, whereas Westwood also has the Portugal Masters in two weeks' time.

It is quite possible for him to regain the crown he held in 2000 without capturing a trophy - but it would make it so much sweeter if he does. Meanwhile, Fernandez-Castano, 27, now has a fourth Tour career title to his name and has improved his play-off record to a perfect 3-0. They are getting more difficult, however. He beat Henrik Stenson at the first hole in China two years ago, Markus Brier at the second hole in Italy last year and now Westwood at the third.

He shot a closing 67 yesterday to come from three behind, then made a 10-footer to stay alive on the second hole of sudden death before a par was good enough on the next. Despite it being dark and cold by the time of the prize-giving he still ended up in the lake by the 18th green. "It just stank. It smelt terrible - as I do now," said Fernandez-Castano, who on emerging from the water attended a press conference a few minutes later wearing only big white towels.

His delight was easy to understand. He had not had a top-10 finish since the Wales Open at the start of June and had slumped to 105th on the money list. "I was starting to get worried. I had high expectations for this year - perhaps too high - and this is an unforgettable victory. Probably the best of my four." He felt he was in company of "four legends" in the final round. Not just Westwood and Michael Campbell, who came third, but also their respective caddies Alastair McLean and Peter Coleman. He is now up to 33rd on the Order of Merit.