Westwood targets Ryder Cup after superb 65 at Valhalla

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Lee Westwood confident of forcing his way into Paul McGinley's team after hitting the front at Valhalla

TOURNAMENT LEADERBOARD

Lee Westwood insists he can force his way into Paul McGinley’s side for the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles after a fine 65 in the opening round of the PGA Championship.

The Englishman, 41, still chasing his first major, carded nine birdies despite starting his back nine with a double on the 1st at Valhalla.

Westwood shares the lead with Americans Kevin Chappell and Ryan Palmer after a day of good scoring in Kentucky.

World number one Rory McIlroy is looking ominous after recovering from a double bogey and a bogey on 10 and 11 before firing four birdies in a row on his way to a 66.

The Open Champion is joined on -5 by Jim Furyk, Henrik Stenson, Edoardo Molinari.

But Westwood went one better and admitted he is out to force his way into McGinley’s side.
I’m still trying to qualify for the team to free up a pick for Paul. I don’t want to rely on a pick" “I’m there or thereabouts,” he said. “I wouldn’t be a million miles away with a good week this week. 

“I’m still trying to qualify for the team to free up a pick for Paul. I don’t want to rely on a pick. I always think that there comes a bit more pressure if you’re a selection, as well, obviously, because you’ve got to try and sort of justify your pick almost. 
 
“And I don’t want to be in that position. I’d rather qualify for the team.” 

Westwood believed his closing 63 at Firestone in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational was a turning point.

“I started to feel like my swing was coming around. 

“I’ve got Mike (Walker, his coach) down at Old Palm the Monday before last week, and we did some work.  

“That tends to be when I do my best work, on the range away from tournaments, and started to hit it well and got a few good feelings in my swing.

“I tried just keep thinking about the final round last week and carry it into today.”

McIlroy, looking for his third win in a row, was pleased with the way he bounced back after going out of bounds with his second shot on 10 before three putting the 11th.

“Things like that happen,” McIlroy said. “I was really annoyed with myself.”

“But the second shot on 12 really kick stated things.

“I was still annoyed with the three putt after the double on 10 but it showed where I am at mentally with my game so I’m really happy to be five under.”

Tiger Woods struggled to a three over 74 as defending champion Jason Dufner was forced to retire after 10 holes suffering with neck injuries.

Matt Kuchar had already pulled out at the 11th hour due to a back problem, heaping more headaches onto USA Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson.

Dufner’s withdrawal means Jordan Speith joins Bubba Watson, Jimmy Walker, Rickie Fowler and Kuchar as those who will automatically qualify for Gleneagles.

For more on the PGA Championship click here

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