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Paul Casey said it was "painful to watch" as playing partner Lee Westwood's hopes of winning the Sklync.io Dubai Desert Classic (opens in new tab) nosedived, with a triple bogey eight at the final hole, ruining what had been a solid day's work.
Westwood, who has finished second in this event three times, looked like putting himself in a great position to go one better as he stood on the tee at the iconic 18th hole at ten-under-par, just two shots behind leader, Justin Harding (opens in new tab).
Two superb putts from @WestwoodLee 😍Five birdies in six holes moves him to two off the lead.#SlyncDDC | #RolexSeries pic.twitter.com/z2NvWvNg3JJanuary 29, 2022
However, a wild drive was followed by an unsuccessful attempt to find a way out of the trees and, after finally finding the fairway, his lay-up to the par five rolled into the thick rough.
After playing his fourth, there were loud groans from the large crowds in Dubai, as the former world number one's pitch shot, from 74 yards, came up well short and landed in a watery grave. Another flick and two putts later and Westwood had fallen back to seven-under, a full five shots behind the leader.
Not surprisingly, he did not stop to talk about that meltdown, but he did show his class by signing autographs and stopping to pose for a few selfies.
Defending champion, Paul Casey (opens in new tab), who is a shot closer to Harding at eight-under, was quick to offer some sympathy, commenting: "It was painful to watch, especially as he's a good friend of mine. He'd played great golf up to that point.
"I suppose it's the old adage about if you get into trouble, don't compound it, try to avoid doing anything that will make things even worse. I could just see it was still fraught with danger when his third shot (that lay-up) rolled into the rough about seventy yards short and left him a really tricky pitch.
"It was a case of: 'Oh no, not there', because your head is probably already scrambled. It's just no fun to be close to it when something like that happens, so think what it was like for Westy. It's so much worse because it's the final hole.
"If you're on the first then fine, take it on the chin and you've got 17 holes to recover. Instead, you leave the course still steaming.
"I know Westy well and normally I'd say he'd be straight in the bar and he'd be over it in an hour. But you know what the problem is there - him and Helen are doing Dry January, so he can't even drown his sorrows! I really feel for him.
"I've been there myself, more times than I'd care to remember and It never sits well. It was a really tough watch."
Going into the final day, Casey will be happy with where he is placed and believes that Harding is unlikely to feel comfortable with eight members of the European Ryder Cup team within six shots of the lead. On top of that, European Captain, Padraig Harrington (opens in new tab), is also just five strokes back on seven-under-par.
Casey, who is defending his title this week, went onto say: "From my own point of view, it's been a pretty decent defence so far. I'm just trying to cruise round, make no mistakes and see what happens.
"That doesn't mean I'm not trying my hardest, but you just sense that no-one is going to really run away from the pack. The greens are brand new, they are firm and really difficult.
"But, I bet as new sponsors, Slync.io must be loving it. You've got Justin Harding and then half the European Ryder Cup team chasing him - and the captain as well! It's a brilliant leaderboard for them."
David brings a wealth of experience to Golf Monthly as a freelance contributor having spent more than two decades covering the game as The Sun's golf correspondent. Prior to that, he worked as a sports reporter for the Daily Mail. David has covered the last 12 Ryder Cups and every Masters tournament since 1999. A popular and highly-respected name in the press tents around the world, David has built close relationships with many of the game's leading players and officials.
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