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Last Updated: Sunday, 17 October, 2004, 15:54 GMT 16:54 UK
Els claims record Match Play win
Ernie Els
To win it six times is a great feeling
Ernie Els clinched a record sixth World Match Play title with a 2&1 victory over Lee Westwood at Wentworth.

The defending champion celebrated his 35th birthday with a 1m paycheque as he overtook Seve Ballesteros and Gary Player as the only six-time winner.

The Wentworth-based South African was all-square with England's Ryder Cup star after the first 18 holes but pulled ahead on the 21st hole.

Westwood, struggling with a virus, kept fighting but could not haul Els back.

Els, who won a hat-trick of titles between 1994-1996 as well as 2002 and 2003, said: "I got quite fortunate today. It wasn't the greatest golf, but its matchplay.

"You get thrown into different circumstances in each and every match. I just tried to stay the course, try and hit fairways and greens, stuff like that.

"To win it six times is a great feeling."

Lee Westwood
I just ran out of a bit of steam at the end
Lee Westwood

The world number two brushed off Volvo PGA winner Scott Drummond, Argentine Angel Cabrera and Irish Ryder Cup star Padraig Harrington en route to a record seventh final.

The two-time European number one added: "Wentworth has been great towards myself and my family. This golf course is my true home golf course now. It's been a great week."

Westwood, 31, the 2000 champion who had beaten Els in both of their previous meetings, said: "I'm feeling awful and to be honest I have been feeling awful all day.

"The main area where it affected me today was putting, bending over and trying to remain still over the ball.

"I think if I had been on form I would have had a really good chance but there were just too many three-putts.

"It wasn't probably the greatest golf you've seen but it was competitive, I suppose. I just tried to fight to the end. But he's a deserved champion."

Westwood, who beat Open champion Todd Hamilton, US Open winner Retief Goosen and Ryder Cup team-mate Miguel Angel Jimenez, added: "It's a long, tiring week.

"I just ran out of a bit of steam at the end. Hopefully I will be back next year and have another crack."

Seve Ballesteros (left) and Ernie Els
Els (right) beat Seve Ballesteros (left) and Gary Player's Match Play record

On a bright autumnal day on the West Course, Els won the first hole but Westwood moved two-up after just six before his opponent cancelled out the lead by the ninth.

The Worksop-born Westwood, Europe's top scorer at the Oakland Hills Ryder Cup, edged ahead twice more after the turn.

But Els had again levelled by the lunch break after his opponent drove out-of-bounds at the 17th when a phone rang in the crowd.

In the afternoon round, Westwood had chances to go ahead at the first two holes but missed his putts and was punished as Els took the lead for only the second time in the match with a birdie on the third.

An eagle at the long fourth to Westwood's birdie took Els two-up before the Englishman narrowed the gap with a birdie on the short fifth.

But Els went back to two ahead when Westwood's tee-shot to the par-three 10th scuttled through the back en route to a bogey.

Westwood had another chance to get one back but missed a 12-footer for birdie on the 13th after Els' wayward drive.

But Westwood stuck to his task and a stunning approach to the 15th set up a birdie as Els three-putted for a five.

A short approach from the Englishman, though, led to a bogey at 16 which left Els two-up with two-to play.

Westwood was in the box seat on the long 17th as he found the green in two with a raking second shot but Els, who was still short in two, slotted in a 15-footer for a half and the win.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Interview: South African Ernie Els


Interview: Lee Westwood


Highlights: World Match Play final



SEE ALSO
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14 Oct 04  |  Golf


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