Catriona Matthew, who won the Ricoh Women’s British Open just 11 weeks after giving birth to her second daughter Sophie, was the clear runner-up in the annual poll which saw Northern Ireland’s emerging star Rory McIlroy finish in third place and Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist fourth.
After narrowly missing out at the Open Championship at Turnberry, the 36-year-old Westwood won twice in the closing weeks of the season, including the inaugural Dubai World Championship, to pip McIlroy for the Race to Dubai title. It was the second time Westwood had won the order of merit on the European Tour, although his triumph in 2000 was followed by a slump in form that saw the Worksop golfer fall out of the world’s top-250.
Westwood, who also claimed the Golf Writers’ Trophy in 1998 and 2000, said: “I am delighted to receive the award once again. It is a particular honour to have been chosen for the third time and to become one of only two players, alongside Seve, to have won it three times. That means an awful lot to me, especially when I consider the great players we have had on the European Tour. It is Seve who stands out in my mind for his record and his charisma and to be linked with such a great champion makes the award all the more special.
“I would also like to mention Catriona Matthew. She would have been worthy of the award considering what she achieved this year. To have won the Women’s British Open just weeks after giving birth to her second child was a spectacular achievement. I have no idea how she managed it.”
Westwood, who will receive the trophy at the Association’s annual dinner prior to the Open Championship at St Andrews in July, added: “It will be good to pick up the trophy on the week of the Open. Hopefully that will be a good omen, especially as it is at the home of golf. My priorities next year will once again be to challenge strongly for the majors. I came close this year and hope to do well in all four in 2010. Hopefully, this time I’ll win one.
“To have come through a bad patch and to have returned to the top of my game is really pleasing. I shall fine tune my game over the winter and return for the Middle East swing in January before heading for the States to prepare my run-in to the Masters.”
Matthew became the first Scot and only the fourth British player to win a major championship in the women’s game following a superb performance at Royal Lytham, which included a course record inward half of 30 in the second round. The 40-year-old North Berwick golfer had only returned to the tour the week previously at the Evian Masters, where on the eve of the tournament she and her husband had to flee a burning hotel. On Saturday Matthew was named as the Players’ Player of the Year on the Ladies European Tour.
Matthew said: “It is fantastic to be honoured in this way, alongside great players like Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy and Anna Nordqvist who have all had fantastic seasons. My season has obviously been a short one, not starting until July, but very successful and certainly above my expectations. I think Sophie changed my life quite a lot! A few sleepless nights but we’re getting into a routine now. I’m looking forward to spending Christmas at home with the family in Scotland.”
McIlroy, 20, won his maiden title in Dubai early in the season and narrowly missed out on being the youngest winner of the order of merit since Ballesteros in 1976, while Nordqvist, 22, won her first major, the LPGA Championship, in only her fifth start as a rookie professional.
Matteo Manassero, who at 16 became the youngest ever winner of the Amateur Championship and was then the leading amateur at the Open at Turnberry, finished fifth in the voting, alongside compatriots Francesco and Edoardo Molinari, who won the World Cup for Italy for the first time. Both enjoyed their finest seasons to date, with Edoardo claiming the Challenge Tour title and winning the Dunlop Phoenix tournament in Japan.
Also featuring in the annual poll of members of the Association of Golf Writers, which dates back to 1951, were Paul Casey, winner of three titles including the BMW PGA Championship, Players champion Henrik Stenson, Martin Kaymer, Ross Fisher and Shane Lowry, who won the Irish Open as an amateur.
Lewine Mair, chairman of the Association of Golf Writers, said: “The breadth of accomplishment represented in this poll is remarkable and shows that European golf is blessed with a wealth of talent. While we can expect to hear much more from youngsters such as Rory McIlroy, Anna Nordqvist and Matteo Manassero, the same applies to Lee Westwood and Catriona Matthew. Both have shown how long-term dedication and experience can be very effective weapons when it comes to having the upper hand on their more youthful rivals. At the same time, both serve as great role models.”