Westwood hits blazing 60 for 'best ever' round
Lee Westwood tore apart one of the most challenging championship courses in Asia yesterday, leaving his rivals to wonder if he was playing the same course as them.
His playing partners, Japanese heartthrob Ryo Ishikawa and Thailand's No1 player Thongchai Jaidee, watched in awe and the rest of the field kept shaking their disbelieving heads as Westwood flirted with that magic number: 59.
The 38-year-old world No3 finally ran out of holes and had to settle for a 12-under-par 60 in the opening round of the US$1 million Thailand Golf Championship, giving the Englishman a five-shot lead over American John Daly and a staggering eight shots over third-placed Gregory Bourdy (France) and Thaworn Wiratchant (Thailand).
Hosts Amata Spring Country Club have dreams to turn this event into one of the most prestigious on the Asian Tour. The organisers could not have wished for such a quick return on their big-money investment in Westwood, Ishikawa, Charl Schwartzel, Darren Clarke and Sergio Garcia.
Westwood's heroics were quickly heard around the world. He rated the 10-birdie, one-eagle blitzkrieg as 'easily my best round ever', some declaration in a career that has brought myriad achievements, including 36 professional wins, five Ryder Cup victories and the world No1 ranking.
'I've shot a couple of 61s in Germany [in 1998 and 2007],' Westwood said. 'Billy [Foster, his caddie] said the 62 I shot in the third round of the Nedbank [Challenge in Sun City, South Africa] two weeks ago was as good a round as he had seen before. But he said today was better and Billy's a pretty good judge.'
All the players remarked how difficult the course was on the eve of the tournament, with Garcia's fears realised as he crashed to a four-over 76.
'This golf course is a real challenge,' Westwood said. 'You only have to look at the scoreboard. Eight shots clear of third shows how tough the course is.
'I have to say this doesn't feel like a 60 golf course. It shows you how well I hit the ball. I got on a roll.'
Westwood said he started thinking about the magic number when he was seven under par from seven holes and the putts kept falling.
'I was thinking about 59. It's only natural. I had a few chances coming in, but left putts short on 11 and 14. It wasn't to be.
'I don't think I can be disappointed with a 60. I'd have to be fairly hard critic of myself to go home disappointed. I'm delighted,' he said.
Daly had a bird's-eye view of Westwood's odyssey as he was in the group behind.
'Every time I saw him putt, he would bend over and pick the ball out of the hole. I got to see most of it. That was one hell of a round,' said the popular American.
Westwood now has the task of trying to perform at the same level today, which would turn the tournament into a one-horse race.
'You have to reset your sights. It's easy to get carried away. I'm experienced enough. I will regroup and come out ... and play the round on its merits,' said Westwood, who already has victories in Indonesia and South Korea this year.
The number of weeks Lee Westwood spent as world No1 after knocking Tiger Woods off the top spot in October last year