Westwood hot at WGC-HSBC Champions
Former No 1 has an impressive day to take a share of the lead at WGC-HSBC Champions
Whether it's the food or the weather, there's something about Asia that suits Lee Westwood's game, as the former world No1 demonstrated again yesterday by storming from nine shots back to take a share of the lead at the WGC-HSBC Champions.
More than a quarter of Westwood's 39 career wins have come in Asia, and he is nicely placed to make it 11 after a superb 61 he ranked in his "top five or six" all-time rounds saw him join Louis Oosthuizen on 18 under par on a remarkable day's shooting at the Olazabal Course at Mission Hills.
"I've always played pretty well in Asia," Westwood said after an 11-birdie, bogey-free round. "It's generally pretty hot here and it was quite steamy out there today. Obviously the conditions suit me … [and] I've always been a sort of middle-to-the-end-of-the year good player.
"Other than that I don't really know why I do so well here - it must be the nasi goreng or something like that!"
Two-time winner Phil Mickelson lies third, one shot back, after a 66, while Ian Poulter (65), Bill Haas (66) and Ernie Els (69) are on 14-under for a share of fourth.
It says something for the quality of the day's play that Brandt Snedeker's new tournament record 60 - he had a putt on the last for a 59 - could almost be overlooked, and the final day is set up for a fascinating showdown, with anyone from around 10 under possibly in contention.
"That's in the top five or six," Westwood said of his day's work. "I've shot a few 61s now and a 60 [in Thailand last year]. I wouldn't say this is an easy golf course by any stretch of the imagination, although we got a 60 today and there's some low scores. When you get a golf course in great condition and very little breeze and five par 5s, then we're generally going to score low."
Westwood came flying out with three birdies in a row and added three more on 5, 7 and 9 for an outward half of 30. Four birdies in a row from 14-17 gave him a share of the lead with Oosthuizen, while a chance for the outright at the last just went begging.
He finished second in this tournament in 2010 and would love to win his first World Golf Championships event at the 41st attempt after a decent, if unspectacular, season so far.
"It surprises me I've played more WGC events than anyone else, I didn't realise I was that old," he said.
"They have increased in stature over the years … [and] it's nice to see one being played in China and Asia, one of the places where golf can grow a lot."
Oosthuizen had started the day five shots ahead, but had his first average round, a 70. Playing partner Ernie Els reeled him in relentlessly on the front nine, three birdies and an eagle giving him a share of the lead before he fell away a little on the back nine, going double-bogey, bogey at 15 and 16 for a 69.
Snedeker admitted to a twinge of disappointment despite his superb round, which has him right in contention despite his nondescript first two rounds. The American birdied his first four, added four more at 7, 9, 10 and 13 and then went eagle, birdie, birdie from 15 to walk down the 18th fairway knowing he had a chance at golf's magic number.
Snedeker said the disappointment "will all be forgotten if I go out here and win this tournament, which is what I came here to do. I got back in the tournament, which is great."