The celebrated, decorated Harry Vardon was never short of a pearl of wisdom. “Even in our darkest hour, we must remember; never despair,” the bold Harry once suggested in an observation that conjures up images of this hapless scribe nervously mulling over the prospect of endless calamities and farcical possibilities in those glowering, gloom-ridden 60 minutes before a tee-time.

“No matter what happens, keep on hitting the ball,” was another of Vardon’s sturdy statements of jaw-jutting fortitude which, in many ways, perfectly encapsulates the defiant ineptitude of those of us who eke out a fairly modest existence in the well-populated, fertile fields of golfing futility and fatalistic tendencies.

Vardon, one third of that great triumvirate of yore, a six-time Open champion and the man whose name adorns the trophy that the winner of the European Tour’s Race to Dubai receives, would no doubt have found a few words to describe Lee Westwood’s enduring excellence and shimmering longevity.

At a sprightly 47, the Englishman is Europe’s No 1 again, 20 years after he topped the standings for the first time in 2000 with a maiden success that ended Colin Montgomerie’s run of seven consecutive order of merit crowns.

In the week when the game paid its respects to Peter Alliss, himself a winner of the Vardon Trophy during his playing pomp back in the swinging 60s, you could have almost imagined the late voice of golf signing off with a robust, ‘Bravo, Lee’, as Westwood plundered the rankings title for the third time in his career.

And it has been – and continues to be – an extraordinary career. In a testing, tumultuous year, in which those behind the scenes at the European Tour deserve tremendous credit for salvaging a season from the ravaging impacts and logistical complexities of coronavirus, it was fitting that a trusty stalwart of the European scene earned the prize and the plaudits in his 567th event on the circuit.

Westwood is such a part of the European Tour’s fabric, they’ll probably bring out a commemorative tapestry to mark the occasion. That he hosted this year’s British Masters at Close House, the first European Tour event to be staged after emerging from the coronavirus shutdown, once again underlined his admirable commitment to the tour that made him.

The Ryder Cup stalwart finished second behind his young compatriot, Matthew Fitzpatrick, in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship on Sunday but it was enough to see him pip Fitzpatrick to the cherished No 1 perch.

Just to make Westwood feel that little bit older, Fitzpatrick was just one of 11 winners on the European Tour this year who were born after Westwood began his rookie campaign in 1994. Such a statistic simply emphasises Westwood’s remarkable durability and unquenchable competitive drooth amid the youth movement.

The advancing years, of course, have never been a barrier to success in this great generation game. There may be a few niggles here, the odd hirple there and one or two eye-watering twinges goodness knows where but the well-worn cranks, pulleys and pistons are still, by and large, in good working order. “The lads in the physio unit have stretched me in places I didn’t think I had,” said Westwood with an admission that evokes some deliciously appalling imagery.

With 44 global wins, including 25 European Tour titles and two PGA Tour victories, as well as a glittering Ryder Cup record and career-earnings that would make Rockefeller look like Albert Steptoe, Westwood’s motivation is unwavering. “The motivation’s never changed, really,” he said of an entrenched drive and determination which, among many achievements, saw him top the world rankings in 2010 after plummeting to 288th on the global order a few years earlier. “I get up each day and do the job I love. I’ve always wanted to be a golfer and I don’t want it to end.”

Westwood will be 48 next April. The oldest player to win a major championship remains Julius Boros, who was 48 when he landed the US PGA Championship back in 1968. Jack Nicklaus and Old Tom Morris, meanwhile, were both 46 when they put the finishing touches to their respective major hauls.

The major prize, of course, is one that remains elusive for Westwood despite experiencing more close shaves than an appointment at Sweeney Todd’s salon, with 19 top-10s, including a trio of seconds and six thirds, in the marquee events down the years.

Time may not be on his side but didn’t we say that about Tom Watson before he came within a par putt of winning the 2009 Open at nearly 60? Westwood bogeyed three of his last four holes that year to miss out on the play-off by a shot in another agonising chapter that has dogged his major story.

The old ‘best player to never win a major’ tag is one of those trite, yet cumbersome, crosses to bear but Westwood’s career will be defined by his sparkling accomplishments and conquests, not the ones that got away. 

In this predictably unpredictable pursuit, we can only wonder what those golfing gods have in store in 2021. For the time being, Westwood continues to revel in his roaring 40s.