Bogey-free Westwood closing in on British Masters historySeptember 29, 2017 Golf News
Familiarity certainly hasn't bred contempt for Lee Westwood as he looks to become the first host to win the British Masters
Thailand, December 2011. The date might not mean much to you but it instantly springs into the clinical mind of caddie Billy Foster.
It was the last time his man Lee Westwood posted 36 bogey free holes of golf. That was, at least, until today.
Back then, Westwood was 11 shots clear at halfway in Asia, describing his displays as the ‘best I’ve ever played’.
Now he’s bang in position going into the weekend at his own tournament. Get set for a busy British Masters weekend at Close House.
Westwood’s 65 had a little bit of everything: great drives, accurate irons as well as – and this will surprise some of his critics – some nerveless par saves from three and four feet.
The weather may not have come out for Newcastle’s adopted hero – the downpours that threatened briefly to flood the Colt course only made his performance more impressive – but, at 9 under par, the sun is still shining in his world.
Being tournament host comes with pressures. You’re in demand for one.
“I have been busy for a year, basically, and then very busy for the last week, and extremely busy for the last three days.
“So when I slipped my spikes on yesterday afternoon it was a bit of a relief to actually be a golfer again.
“To come here and not have someone asking me where we were putting a tee, or a flag and something like that.
“I feel like I’ve actually had my own ticket-line.”
Westwood has still enjoyed the graft of hosting. But he was probably happy for the only time in his life on Thursday to be stuck in traffic. It meant people were turning out.
“It was nice to stand on that 1st tee yesterday and see so many people here and see the course in great condition,” he said.
He may just become the first British Masters host to win his own tournament.
His second round – starting at the 10th – was built on steady foundations before he converted a putt on the 13th that suddenly sent him on a spree.
It had followed a shot you had to witness to understand its majesty. With fairway wood in hand, and a massive copse of trees in front, he blasted over the top of them to the front of the green on the par 5.
It definitely seemed to electrify him – a long putt on 14 and another birdie on the next taking him to 7 under.
But impressive as all of that was, even more eye-catching were his scrambling skills.
After dumping it from one bunker to another on 17, he conjured a par save and then battled on as the heavens opened.
It’s always amazing to see how professional golfers cope in rain. It was absolutely slamming down – people were hiding in the trees – yet Westwood looked like it was nothing more than a spot of light drizzle.
His manner, and poise, when things are going well is something to see when you’re up close and personal. He almost glides round the layout.
It’s his course, no doubt – if not quite the version he’s always used to playing.
“They use different flags to what they do with the members day in and day out and your attitude changes towards the golf course – your game plan and your strategy,” he said. “You obviously play it a lot more conservatively.
“If I am teeing it up on a Saturday afternoon with the lads, the driver comes out a lot more than it has the last few days here. I have been hitting 3-wood and rescues off a lot of tees to find position and plot my way round from there.”
He added: “Holes like the 7th, I just pull driver out there and crack it 30 yards short of the green. Today, it was rescue and a 6-iron. It’s completely different from the back tees.”
Where Westwood was at home, though, was the greens. On the pro-am day, I watched David Lingmerth look baffled at some of the breaks.
Sergio Garcia, who came from the super quick surfaces at East Lake, was just as befuddled. It sees him spending the weekend somewhere else after missing the cut by a shot.
Westwood, though, knows every blade of grass. That knowledge brought him a birdie at the 1st and 4th. It also saw him strike with confidence when par putts were needed on the closing holes.
“I’ve played solidly, pretty much the way I wanted to over the two days and I like my position going into the weekend,” he said. “It’s nice for the host to be in contention.”
One of the members’ big questions going into the event was how low the winning score might be. Tyrrell Hatton’s 12 under half way total, thanks to rounds of 63 and 65, is paving the way for a birdie blitz at the weekend.
But the one person you won’t find complaining – even if the winning score touched -30 – is Westwood.
“I don’t mind everyone coming out and seeing lads make a load of birdies and hitting it close,” he explained.
“That’s what golf’s all about. I see too many tournaments where the pros are miserable and they have got their heads down because they are grinding away.
“I don’t mind a tournament like that but I’d much prefer to come out and see birdies.”
He’ll be hoping he can bag his fair share over the final two rounds.
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