Sports / Golf

Major-less Westwood takes caddie's sage advice to heart

By Associated Press in Loiusville, Kentucky (China Daily) Updated: 2014-08-09 07:40

Red-hot putter gives Englishman the lead after first round of PGA Championship

There were plenty of reasons to believe the window was fast closing on Lee Westwood's sometimes heartbreaking campaign to win a major.

But the Englishman cracked it wide open again on Thursday at the PGA Championship, piling nine birdies atop a double bogey at the first hole for a 6-under 65 and a share of the first-round lead with Kevin Chappell and Ryan Palmer.

It was Westwood's lowest round ever at the PGA and matched his best in a major - a third-round 65 at the 2011 US Open.

"I was in a good frame of mind at the second tee," he said, chuckling, afterward.

Instead of dwelling on the bad break at No 1, where a terrific drive came to rest at the end of an unfilled divot in the fairway, Westwood listened to some soothing words from caddie Billy Foster and drew on the memory of his final-round 63 at Firestone last week.

"I'm just not a patient person and I get frustrated really quickly when I know I can play better than I'm actually doing," Westwood said.

"That's where a good caddie comes in, sort of talks to you calmly and says, 'Just keep doing what you're doing and it will come.' Hate to hear those words from him ... but he's right."

The encouragement helped, but the real key to Westwood's round was his putter. Four of the birdies he rolled in were 15 feet or longer, highlighted by a 35-footer at No 9.

That clutch performance on the greens didn't escape the notice of European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley. Westwood, who has slipped to No 34 in the world, has played in the last eight matches. But he might need help from McGinley - in the form of a wild-card pick - to extend that streak.

"If you look at the one pillar that has been consistent throughout the Ryder Cup success we have had since the '90s, it has been Lee Westwood," McGinley told Sky Sports.

"But you want to see Lee in form. He is not going to get in on his reputation alone. He needs some form. He knows that and it's good to see him playing well today."

Westwood, 41, credited a tougher exercise regimen with helping him cope with the sweltering heat and humidity settling over Valhalla Golf Club, a par-71 course stretched out to 7,458 yards this week.

He laughed when the moderator at a news conference after the round complimented Westwood's newly svelte figure.

"Very nice of you to say and notice," he said. "Which part of me?"

But a few extra pounds aren't the only memory from his previous trip to Valhalla that Westwood would like to shed. The last time he set foot on the course, he was part of Europe's losing Ryder Cup side.

While qualifying for the team may be a longshot, Westwood hopes his play here will convince McGinley he deserves a chance to be at Gleneagles in Scotland when the matches begin in late September.

"I don't think the team as a whole played particularly well. So that was my overriding thought of that week," Westwood said.

"I've had chats with Paul and he said, 'Try to show some form.' I don't know whether he's just looking for a reason to pick me, but I've shot 63 last Sunday and I'm leading a major this week.

"So I'm ticking that box for him".

Meanwhile, co-leader Palmer would love to get his hands on the Wanamaker Trophy.

He knows another guy named Palmer never did.

While one round does not make a champion, someone asked the 37-year-old Palmer what it would mean to win the only major championship that eluded Arnold Palmer.

"Ask me that again on Sunday night if we are still here," he said.

"I knew this is the one he didn't win.

"I guess if this Palmer won it, that would bepretty cool."

He started at No 10 and ripped off five birdies in his first nine holes. He found the greens to be especially receptive, allowing him to roll in a 12-footer at the 10th, an 18-footer at the 14th and a 20-footer at the 17th.

With a two-putt birdie at the par-5 18th, Palmer made the turn with a 31.

"Obviously I could tell a few more people showed up, and then of course they start taking pictures of you when you're walking," Palmer said.

"When you get to where people are taking pictures of you walking, then you know you're playing good, because you know they are not watching my clothes or my walk."

 Major-less Westwood takes caddie's sage advice to heart

Lee Westwood reacts after making a birdie on the seventh hole during the first round of the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on Thursday in Louisville, Kentucky. David J. Phillip / Associated Press

(China Daily 08/09/2014 page9)

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