Westy breaks Southwind record
Lee Westwood has posted a course-record to take the lead at the weather-delayed St Jude Classic.
World number three Lee Westwood made himself right at home on his first trip to Memphis, calmly posting a course-record 63 at TPC Southwind to lead the St Jude Classic after the first round was suspended for the day due to bad weather.
The Englishman’s seven-under-par opening round at the par-70 course gave him a one-stroke clubhouse lead over the field in Tennessee with 20 golfers yet to complete their round.
They will do so early on Friday morning, but none of them is likely to overtake the flying Westwood, who took advantage of the day’s best conditions.
All the best scores came in the morning with Memphis native Casey Wittenberg home in six under and Ireland’s Padraig Harrington third following a 65.
That left three-time major winner Harrington a shot clear of an eight-man group in the clubhouse at four under par.
England’s Ian Poulter, the world number five, had led the way for the late wave alongside American Lee Janzen and Stephen Ames of Canada at three under after 10 holes, but with the temperature tipping 38 degrees and conditions extremely humid, no one could make it to the top of the leaderboard.
Poulter endured a poor finish with five bogeys in his last seven holes to card a two-over 72.
Westwood, who played next week’s US Open venue Pebble Beach on Sunday and Monday ahead of the second major of the year, hit the ground running in Memphis as he went bogey free with five birdies and an eagle, going out in 29 for his opening nine holes, starting from the 10th tee and including his three at the par-five 16th.
Westwood added his fifth and final birdie of the round before carding pars all the way home.
The only blemish, he felt, was a missing short birdie putt at the ninth, his last.
“Twenty-nine, that was a pretty good start,” Westwood said.
“And 63 is always a good start. I couldn’t be disappointed with that.
“It could have been better, but I’m not going to cry too much about missing from four feet on the last.”
Westwood said he has not easily been fazed by the thought of playing new courses and he had had good experiences in those situations, not least at last November’s Dubai World Championship where victory on the just-opened Earth Course made him the European Tour number one as he topped the inaugural Race To Dubai rankings.
“It’s been a long time since I played a course for the first time,” he said.
“I just played the Honda for the first time this year. I finished in the Top-10. That was pretty good.
“Last year we all played the course at Dubai for the first time there. I was 23 under.
“I adjust fairly well, I think. You can play most courses if you hit it straight and close.”
Harrington was just as pleased with his bogey-free opening 65, which came two weeks after undergoing minor surgery to repair torn knee cartilage and a month after missing the cut at The Players Championship in his last outing in the USA.
“I’m happy, yes,” Harrington said. “I suppose it’s always there, beware of the injured golfer.
“Expectations aren’t quite as bold when you’re out there. I thought it was nice to play well and did the right things at the right time.”
England’s Greg Owen finished at one under following an opening 69 while world number 10 Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland birdied the 16th to post the same score in a bogey-free round.
Australia’s Robert Allenby did not get a chance to continue his run of good form at TPC Southwind. A joint runner-up in 2008 and tied for fourth last year, Allenby withdrew this morning due to illness.
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