Westwood on course for a late challenge
‘I have the patience to win here’
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.