WEST­WOOD UN­DONE BY ‘BAL­LIS­TIC’ BALL

English­man stuck in six-way lead af­ter struggling at fi­nal two holes

New Straits Times - - Sport -

LEE West­wood spoke about his “bal­lis­tic” ball af­ter bo­gey­ing the fi­nal two holes to fall into a share of the lead with Phil Mick­el­son and four oth­ers af­ter the first round at the WGC-Mex­ico Cham­pi­onship at Club de Golf Cha­pul­te­pec in Mex­ico City on Thurs­day.

The 43-year-old English­man led by two strokes be­fore stum­bling at the end, while Mick­el­son rolled in a 16-footer for birdie at the last to join him with a fou­run­der 67.

For­mer World No 1 West­wood was gen­er­ally pleased with his per­for­mance, though he was pun­ished a cou­ple of times when his ball car­ried fur­ther than ex­pected in the thin air more than 2,200 me­tres above sea level.

“I played great,” West­wood told Golf Chan­nel. “It’s a tricky golf course. It’s hard work play­ing at al­ti­tude. Oc­ca­sion­ally one just goes bal­lis­tic and you end up in a night­mare of a spot.”

Mick­el­son also spoke about how far he was hitting the ball af­ter his birdie fin­ish left him atop a leader­board that also in­cluded PGA Cham­pi­onship win­ner Jimmy Walker, fel­low Amer­i­can Ryan Moore, English­man Ross Fisher and young Spa­niard Jon Rahm.

The six-way tie for the lead marked a record for a World Golf Cham­pi­onships stroke play event dat­ing back to the in­cep­tion of the se­ries in 1999.

“This is an in­cred­i­ble chal­lenge for all of us,” Mick­el­son said about the heav­ily tree-lined course, adding that he could hit a nine-iron more than 180 yards.

“At sea level I might hit a nine­iron 150 yards. If I need to hit it a lit­tle harder I might be able to get 155 out of it. Let’s say I hit it 170 here, if I want to get a lit­tle more out of it, I can get 10-to-15 more yards, I can hit it 180, 185.”

Rory McIl­roy, in his first com­pet­i­tive round af­ter a six-week lay­off due to a rib in­jury, was among seven play­ers one shot from the lead.

“My first full com­pet­i­tive round today and I didn’t feel it at all,” World No 3 McIl­roy said about his ribs.

The North­ern Ir­ish­man was more con­cerned about an up­set stom­ach that he said left him feel­ing a bit weak dur­ing the round.

Swe­den’s British Open cham­pion Hen­rik Sten­son fell foul of the same con­di­tion and with­drew af­ter 11 holes, leav­ing 76 play­ers in the elite field that boasted 49 of the top 50 in the world, with only No 2 Ja­son Day (ill) ab­sent.

Amer­i­can Dustin John­son, mak­ing his first start as World No 1, shot 70 de­spite miss­ing seven putts within seven feet.

“Ob­vi­ously, I didn’t score very well at all, but I played re­ally well,” the long-hitting John­son said. “I missed so many putts, short ones. Six of those seven were in­side five feet.”

AFP PIC

Eng­land’s Lee West­wood hits a shot in the first round of the Mex­ico Cham­pi­onship on Thurs­day.

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