Record 62 puts Westy in command
Lee Westwood has rocketed into a commanding lead at the Nedbank Golf Challenge with an astonishing course record 62.
England’s Lee Westwood has rocketed into a commanding lead at the Nedbank Golf Challenge with an astonishing course record 62 at Sun City’s Gary Player Country Club.
His spectacular 10-birdie round on day when no other players in the field could better 4-under and which had the TV commentators praising the English World No 3 to the skies and suggesting it would be a long time before a performance of this brilliance would be matched again, took his three-round total to 16-under on one of the longest and toughest courses in the game to leave his high profile rivals in the elite 12-strong field wide-eyed and stunned.
The defending champion’s blistering score bettered the previous best mark for the tournament set by Ernie Els in 2002, and equalled by Henrik Stenson in 2008 and Nick Watney in 2009.
Perhaps, of more importance, Westwood’s heroics have also given him a seven shot lead over his closest pursuers, Graeme McDowell, of Northern Ireland who led the second round at 7-under, and Swede Robert Karlsson, who had been tied for second with Westwood at 6-under on Friday night.
McDowell and Karlsson, like most players in the field, found birdies hard to come by on Saturday and had to be happy with a respective 2-under 70 and a 3-under 69 as they moved into joint second place at 9-under.
Jason Dufner, the lone American in the field and German star Martin Kaymer were a shot further back at 8-under with sole South African Charl Schwartzel, the reigning Masters champion who posted a day’s second-best 4-under 68 , and South Korea’s rising star, Kyung-tae Kim (70), tied for 6th at 6-under.
World No 1 Luke Donald who has been out of golf since early November to be with his wife for the birth of their second daughter on November 11, 2011, has been struggling to find his best form and was sitting at 5-under with virtually no chance of catching his runaway English Ryder Cup team-mate.
Indeed with the event heading to into a final day when the pins will be more difficult to reach than they have at any time this week on the Country Club’s clover-shaped Greens, finding enough birdies to catch the flying Westwood in the kind of form he has been in here is likely to be a bridge too far for any of his rivals.
As it was on Saturday, the Worksop golfer’s birdies came in bursts – first between two and four, then between nine and 11 and most spectacularly of all in a birdie blitz of four between the 14th and 17th, completed when he stroked in a six-foot putt to move to 10 under.
With Sun City holding it collective breath and wondering if he could take his score to 11-under with a fifth consecutive birdie, Westwood found the edge of the green with his approach over the water at the 18th, but this time he left his putt just short.
McDowell still trailed by just five going to the 18th, but made a mess of the final hole, twice going into bunkers before making a double-bogey putt which left him with a 70 for the day and took him seven shots off the pace.
“I obviously played pretty well,” a cool and composed Westwood told the media after a marque round he won’t easily forget.
“I can’t remember missing a fairway, and I played the par-fives really well. I had four really good eagle chances on them and didn’t make any of the eagle putts.
“It’s the way I’ve been playing tee-to-green,” he added. “I’ve just been waiting for one or two 20-footers to go in, and I felt like I had a 62 in me.”
“If you asked me now for the poor shots I played in the round, I probably couldn’t tell you,” Westwood said smiling and clearly delighted with his round..
“I hit it over the flag or right where I was aiming all day. Sometimes, I wasn’t aiming at the flag and it went exactly where I was aiming, so it was as good as I’ve played in a long, long time.”
Westwood is not the brash kind of man to take anything for granted and would probably be the last to say the tournament is done and dusted, but he must know that even if he only cards a level-par 72 in the final round he is going to be very difficult to catch
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