Lee Westwood savoured victory in the United States for the first time in 12 years and welcomed receiving some long-awaited good fortune.
Westwood, 37, ended his long wait for a second PGA Tour title as he defeated Sweden’s Robert Karlsson at the fourth hole of a sudden-death play-off at the St Jude Classic in Memphis, but only after American Robert Garrigus had blown a three-stroke lead at the 72nd hole, his triple bogey handing the European duo a second chance.
The world number three and European number one had won 23 times worldwide since landing the 1998 Freeport-McDermott Classic in New Orleans, but, 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 finishing runner-up in this year’s Masters and in a tie for fourth at The Players last month.
Westwood completed the perfect preparation for next week’s US Open at Pebble Beach with a second career victory on American soil.
“Twelve years ago I won my first tournament in New Orleans,” Westwood said.
“You try to do the right thing all the time. Sometimes it doesn’t work for you. I’ve been in contention a lot, especially this year, and I suppose I got a break today with other people’s misfortune, but made the most of it and took a chance.”
Westwood insisted he had not felt disheartened as the near-misses stacked up.
“In my career I’ve had highs and lows,” he said.
“I’ve dropped down in the world rankings and come back up so to be contending for golf tournaments is a real positive, because I couldn’t see a fairway or the golf course eight years ago.
“Now I’m contending for golf tournaments. What is there not to enjoy? There’s far more people – you look at the charity this week, the kids’ hospital – go through worse things than playing bad golf.
“That’s why I play golf with such an optimistic outlook. Good things will happen. I enjoy golf.”
The Englishman, playing on a sponsor’s invite, had looked out of contention at TPC Southwind as Garrigus took his three-shot lead to the 72nd hole, only to triple bogey and send the event into a three-way sudden-death play-off also featuring 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 where 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 TPC Southwind while overnight leader Garrigus recovered from two early bogeys to tie with the Englishman at the top of the leaderboard with birdies at the eighth and 10th.
And the American moved ahead of the European number one 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 and parred for a two-under round of 68 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.
That required him to lay up sideways on the way to a triple-bogey seven that brought Westwood and Karlsson into their three-way play-off, all finishing on 10 under.
South Africa’s Retief Goosen and Sweden’s Fredrik Jacobson both closed on four under following final-round 68s, while world number 10 Rory McIlroy ended his preparations for next week’s US Open with a one-over 71 that left him at two under.
Sweden’s Mathias Gronberg shot a closing 71 to finish the week at level par but three-time major winner Padraig Harrington carded his third over-par round of the tournament following an opening 65.
Harrington’s 73 left the Dubliner at three over for the week.