Westwood seizes early advantage

Lee Westwood got off to the perfect start at the Barclays Scottish Open on Thursday.

Lee Westwood got off to the perfect start at the Barclays Scottish Open on Thursday.

The world number two carded a superb seven-under-par 65 in his first round to grab the early clubhouse lead at Castle Stuart.

Set to go back to the top of the rankings if he wins in Scotland this week, Westwood made six birdies and an eagle in his round, and dropped only one shot.

Fellow Englishman Luke Donald will be trying his best to hold on to the top spot, however, and he also had a great start to his week, shooting a five-under 67 that leaves him only two shots adrift.

Donald recovered from a bogey at the fourth to make six birdies in all, including five on his back nine.

Swede Peter Hanson and South African George Coetzee both shot 66s to lie in joint second, one behind the leader, while a number of players equaled Donald’s 67, including Chris Wood, Barry Lane, Jamie Donaldson, Edoardo Molinari, Retief Goosen, Richard Finch and Scot Colin Montgomerie.

Montgomerie needs a top-five finish to make it into next week’s Open field, and he gave himself a good chance of achieving it with a solid first-round performance that could have been even better if he hadn’t bogeyed the last hole.

Westwood was pleased with his round, though he admitted he lost his sense of direction on a couple of occasions.

“I played well and it’s a nice way to start the next two weeks,” he said.

“I’ve no superstition about winning the week before a major. The more pressure I can get myself under the better – I like having the pressure.

“I couldn’t find a couple of tees, so I had to ask direction,” he added.

He also had to contend with a heavy downpour at one stage in his round, but it didn’t seem to put him off at all, as he managed a birdie at the 15th while the rain fell.

A number of big names feature amongst the late starters who were yet to tee off when Westwood posted his total, including Phil Mickelson, Padraig Harrington, Justin Rose and Ernie Els.