Westy unfazed by Tiger draw
Lee Westwood is unfazed by what some see as a nightmare draw for the first two rounds of this week’s Open.
Lee Westwood thought it could not get any tougher than playing with Tiger Woods in the final group on the final day of a major in California.
But he has now been presented with an Open Championship draw that some might view as a nightmare scenario.
He not only has Woods to contend with, but also the 17-year-old Japanese sensation, Ryo Ishikawa.
It’s not a draw most golfers would want, but not Westwood.
He insists he is looking forward to two rounds of golf in which the number of media people inside the ropes could be close to matching the number of spectators outside.
“You know Tiger is going to be there or thereabouts, so what better place to keep an eye on him,” he stated.
“And the Japanese as a race are very respectful. I don’t think there’s a danger of it getting silly out there.
“I’ve always enjoyed playing with Tiger and I’ve always done well. It should be a great atmosphere and I think I’m experienced enough after 16 years (as a professional) to focus on my own game.”
Westwood was speaking after being presented on Monday afternoon with what he hopes is only his first Claret Jug of the week.
That was for a “Spirit of Golf” award from the Golf Foundation to recognise his contribution to the junior game, the Worksop golfer having come through the system himself before spending time this year setting up a series of academies.
The two previous winners of the award he received were Gary Player and Tony Jacklin, and Westwood said: “They’re two pretty big names and I just hope that I’ll be holding a trophy at the end of the week that they once held.”
He and Woods last went head to head at the US Open in San Diego in June last year. Both shot 73, but Woods held a one-shot lead overnight and went on to beat fellow American Rocco Mediate in that memorable, 18-hole play-off.
They have also played together in the Open before. That was at Troon five years ago and, although Woods out-scored him by two, Westwood went on to be fourth, his best Open finish ever, while the world number one ended up ninth.
That was also the Englishman’s best major performance until Torrey Pines, after which he declared: “I am far more convinced I can now win a major.”
Westwood goes into this week with his confidence high again after being in a play-off for the French Open eight days ago and last week hitting back from a chest infection with rounds of 66 and 64 at Loch Lomond – playing partner Rory McIlroy thought he could have shot 61 each time.
Woods won his last tournament two weeks ago, while Ishikawa earned his Open debut by winning his third professional title in his home country just over a week ago.
While they tee off at 9.09am on Thursday, Padraig Harrington’s hat-trick bid will not get under way until 2.20pm. He plays with former US Open champions Geoff Ogilvy and Jim Furyk.
Amazingly, Ishikawa is not the youngest player in the 156-man line-up. That is 16-year-old British amateur champion Matteo Manassero, and the Italian finds himself in a star group as well.
Tom Watson, winner of the famed ‘Duel in the Sun’ against Jack Nicklaus at Turnberry in 1977, is the oldest player in the field at 59, while Sergio Garcia, who made his first appearance when he was 16, is hoping he can finally break his major duck 13 years later.
In what is now time-honoured fashion, Woods teed off for his practice round on Monday at 6.30am and was off the course just after 10am.
This is his first trip to the Ayrshire links and he described it as “a lot more difficult than people are letting on”.
He had not visited Hoylake before the 2006 Open either and won there. “You’ve just got to do your homework,” he added.
That victory three years ago was notable for the fact he used his driver only once in the entire championship – and playing partner Nick Faldo reckoned there was no need for it even then.
After recent rain – there were more showers this morning – Turnberry is not as fast running as Royal Liverpool and he has still to decide his strategy.
“I’ve got the driver in (the bag), but I don’t know how it’s going to be used,” he said
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