Westwood aims to train his way back to the top
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.