West­wood aims to train his way back to the top

The Herald - Sport - - UPDATE - PHIL CASEY IN AN­TALYA

LEE WEST­WOOD be­lieves some­thing has “fi­nally clicked” af­ter he shot his low­est score for 14 months on the open­ing day of the Turk­ish Air­lines Open – al­though that was still not enough to claim an early lead.

De­spite suf­fer­ing from a heavy cold, West­wood carded eight birdies in a flaw­less 64 at the Mont­gomerie Maxx Royal, a score bet­tered only by South Africa’s Jaco van Zyl who carded a stun­ning 61.

West­wood’s fel­low English­man Chris Wood took the op­por­tu­nity to im­press play­ing part­ner and Ry­der Cup cap­tain Dar­ren Clarke with a 66, while Race to Dubai leader Rory McIl­roy was part of a seven-strong group a shot fur­ther back af­ter a 67.

West­wood has given up his PGA Tour mem­ber­ship as he goes through a di­vorce from his wife of 16 years, Lau­rae. He is mov­ing back to the UK from their home in Florida to be close to their two chil­dren.

The 42-year-old won the In­done­sian Masters in April, but has slipped down the world rank­ings to his cur­rent po­si­tion of 46th, with a place in the top 50 vi­tal to se­cure en­try to ma­jors and World Golf Cham­pi­onship events next sea­son.

“I’ve had an idea of what’s been wrong for a while and I’ve been work­ing hard with Mike Walker [his coach] and also with Kevin Duffy in the gym and I think some­thing has fi­nally clicked,” the former world No.1 said.

“It’s stuff I’ve worked on be­fore, but just a slightly dif­fer­ent idea to give my­self the same feel­ing as I got when I was play­ing well.

“I’m no spring chicken any more. I’ve been train­ing my hips to work in a cer­tain way the last cou­ple of years, but not play­ing very well and with not a great hip and leg ac­tion. I’m try­ing to train my way out of it now and get it back to where it was.

“I have six big tour­na­ments be­fore the end of the year. I’ve dropped down the world rank­ings, so I want to earn as many points as I can. It’s not been a com­pletely dis­as­trous year by any means, but I want next year to ob­vi­ously be bet­ter.”

Van Zyl, who was granted a med­i­cal ex­emp­tion for this sea­son af­ter un­dergo- ing knee surgery in 2014, put him­self in pole po­si­tion to claim a first Euro­pean Tour ti­tle thanks to an ea­gle and nine birdies – five of which came in the last six holes.

“I hon­estly thought four un­der par around here was a good score,” the 36-year-old said.

“I’ve been hit­ting the ball re­ally nicely for months now, but I’ve been strug­gling on the short game, putting in par­tic­u­lar. I put a lit­tle bit more ef­fort and time into it this week and I think I’ve found the key.”

McIl­roy has a lead of 271,214 points over England’s Danny Wil­lett – who carded a 69 – as he looks to win the Race to Dubai for the third time in four years. But he can­not af­ford to re­lax, with each of the four Fi­nal Se­ries events worth more than 1.3mil­lion points to the win­ners.

The 26-year-old is play­ing three of the four and has tar­geted at least one vic­tory to end an in­jury-af­fected sea­son in style, his last win com­ing six weeks be­fore suf­fer­ing the an­kle in­jury which ruled him out of the Scot­tish Open.

David Drys­dale was the lead­ing Scot af­ter the first round in An­talya, af­ter a three-un­der-par 69 that in­cluded five birdies and two bo­geys.

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