/First Cut: Lee Westwood continues to roll with third Race to Dubai championship on European Tour
First Cut: Lee Westwood continues to roll with third Race to Dubai championship on European Tour

First Cut: Lee Westwood continues to roll with third Race to Dubai championship on European Tour

Though the PGA Tour is done on an official basis for the rest of 2020, there was still plenty of golf to consume over the weekend if you knew where to look. From Lee Westwood’s big victory in Dubai to a washed-out U.S. Women’s Open (that will conclude on Monday) to a QBE Shootout featuring a couple of Sea Island stalwarts, there’s a lot to dig into in this week’s edition of the First Cut.

Unfortunately, the most prominent event of the weekend — that U.S. Women’s Open at Champions Golf Club in Houston — experienced a ton of rain and was put on hold before the leaders went off in the final round. It should conclude on Monday (though it will likely be in extremely cold, windy conditions). And while it got robbed of some nice weekend eyeballs, the conclusion should still be a great one.

Hinako Shibuno leads at 4 under, but the leaderboard is absolutely packed. Amy Olson, Lydia Ko, amateur Kaitlyn Papp, the Jutanugarn sisters and world No. 1 Jin Young Ko (and No. 2 Sei Young Kim) are all in the top 10 as it stands going into Monday. You can catch the last 18 holes on Golf Channel.

Westy’s two-decade run: One tournament that did finish up on Sunday was the DP World Tour Championship. Matthew Fitzpatrick beat Lee Westwood by a stroke, but Westwood claimed the Race to Dubai for the third time in his career. Remarkably, this stretch of dominance has spanned two decades as Westwood won his first Race to Dubai in 2000, took another one in 2009 and now this most recent one in 2020. This one may not have been as impressive as the other two given how truncated the European Tour season was because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Westwood is no longer the 27-year-old star he used to be, and he defeated players in their primes like Patrick Reed, Collin Morikawa, Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood.

“They have all been very different,” Westwood said. “I guess 2000, sort of I was winning a lot, but I was still like up-and-coming. It was only my seventh year on Tour. [In] 2009, I was honing in on the best player in the world spot, and I needed to win here to win The Race to Dubai, and I managed to do that. And then this one, I’m kind of the more mature player on The European Tour now. It wasn’t something I set out to do at the start of the year, but it shows the consistency I’ve shown.”

That consistency is both staggering and a bit of a curse. It’s allowed Westwood to finish in the top 10 in 19 different major championships, reach No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings and have a career in which he has finished the year inside the top 50 in the world at the end of nearly half the years he’s been alive. All of this, of course, creates sometimes insurmountable expectations when it comes to majors and winning, and while another Race to Dubai is nice, it also adds to the fact that Westwood will go down as one of the best players (if not the best player) in the history of the sport to never win a major championship.

English and Kuchar set a new record: Harris English and Matt Kuchar won the QBE Shootout over the weekend in Naples, Florida, and they shot 37 under over three days at this team event to win by nine (!) over three different teams. English has quietly been one of the 10 best players in the world this year, not that we needed a two-man exhibition in December to prove it (he’s 10th in strokes gained over the last 12 months). Probably the most notably funny thing that happened at the event actually came on Twitter when the PGA Tour — for some reason — showed off Kuchar’s son caddying for him. It served as chum in the water for folks still hung up on Kuchar’s sketchy caddie payment a few years ago at the Mayakoba Golf Classic.

Picks for the 2021 majors: We made our stupidly-early 2021 major championship picks on the First Cut Podcast recently, and for some reason I agreed to publicly opine on tournaments that are still eight months away. Here are my picks for 2021.

  • Masters: Bryson DeChambeau
  • PGA Championship: Matthew Wolff
  • U.S. Open: Jon Rahm
  • Open Championship: Patrick Reed

I’ll write more about these in the days and weeks to come, but I wanted to put mine in writing before Christmas for posterity’s sake.