Westwood on course for a late chal­lenge

‘I have the pa­tience to win here’

Daily Express - - RACING: APPRENTICE BATTLE - From Neil Squires in Valder­rama

WHEN the nor­mally stoic Lee Westwood won the Euro­pean Tour Or­der of Merit eight years ago he was, as he ad­mit­ted yes­ter­day, as emo­tional as he has ever been on a golf course. The hand­ker­chiefs could be out again this week­end.

Westwood went into the sea­son-end­ing Volvo Mas­ters as one of the two out­siders in a four-horse race for the Or­der of Merit but af­ter be­com­ing one of only six play­ers to break par in the first round he has put him­self in the ideal po­si­tion to strike.

If Valder­rama was nurs­ing a grudge at be­ing jet­ti­soned from the Euro­pean Tour next sea­son when the Race to Dubai be­gins, then its vengeance was sweet.

The gusty con­di­tions ru­ined many a card in­clud­ing that of Padraig Har­ring­ton, who started dis­as­trously with a 76, and his ri­val for the Or­der of Merit Robert Karls­son, who needed birdies at two of the last four holes to res­cue a 73 from an er­ratic day.

Westwood, who heads into the op­er­at­ing the­atre af­ter this event to have his ton­sils re­moved, bat­tened down the hatches to take fifth place, five shots be­hind the leader Soren Kjeld­sen, who shot a freak­ish 65.

He needs a top-two fin­ish but Westwood clearly fan­cies his chances of de­liv­er­ing it, hav­ing ended up in the top 10 on his last three ap­pear­ances at a no­to­ri­ously miserly venue. “I never feel comfortabl­e here but I do feel I have the men­tal strength and pa­tience to win. It is very much like a Ma­jor – maybe not as long but with a sim­i­lar state of mind needed. It’s one of the best cour­ses in Europe and a fit­ting place to end the sea­son,” said Westwood.

“When­ever I play a golf course where par is a de­cent score I en­joy it. That’s why I have played well at the US Open and why I have a de­cent record here.

“If I do end up winning the Or­der of Merit it will feel dif­fer­ent to last time, be­cause I have done it be­fore, but no less spe­cial.”

Kjeld­sen chipped in twice at the sixth and the 15th. If he was to go on to win the event it would help Karls­son in his bid to be­come the first Swede to claim the Or­der of Merit, a re­sult pan-Scan­di­na­vian sol­i­dar­ity de­mands. “It would be great to see Robert winning,” said Kjeld­sen.

Ly­ing last af­ter round one is Justin Rose, whose nine-over-par 80 in­cluded a triple-bo­gey eight on the 17th when he chipped into the wa­ter af­ter pitch­ing over the green.

The de­fend­ing cham­pion, who went out first on his own, de­scribed his per­for­mance as “ter­ri­ble”. “I’m just play­ing poorly right now – ev­ery­thing is hard work,” said Rose.

PHIL MICK­EL­SON is set to turn down the chance to join the Euro­pean Tour next sea­son.

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