Westwood off to a Valhalla flyer

Lee Westwood made the perfect start in his bid for a first major title at the US PGA Championship – a six-under-par 65.

Having missed the cut in four consecutive events leading up to last week’s Brigestone Invitational, a final-round 63 at Firestone showed the Englishman may have turned a corner.

And his good form continued at Valhalla on Thursday where he covered the back nine in 33, picking up birdies at the 10th, 14th, 17th and 18th, with his only bogey coming at the par-four 15th.

Westwood looked to have squandered that superb start when he double-bogeyed the first, but the best was yet to come.

After getting the shot back at the fourth, Westwood went on a run of four straight birdies from the sixth to card a superb 65.

That gave him a share of the clubhouse lead alongside American Kevin Chappell.

“Last week was a big week for me,” Westwood said after his round.

“Going into last week I felt like I had turned the corner. I was starting to swing it a lot better but that’s no good unless you start converting it into low rounds. The first three rounds were frustrating because I played a lot better than three over.

“Then obviously I got it going the final day, shot 63. I tried to keep it low key in the practice rounds here, just playing nine holes each day, and carry that momentum through to the first round, which I’ve managed to do.”

Westwood’s countryman Ian Poulter also made a solid start – a three-under-par 68 that left him firmly ensconced in the top 10.

Asked what was most pleasing about his 68, Poulter said: “The overall state of my game, because it hasn’t been there for a little while.

“I think the work that I put in Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday was rewarding to go out there to play well. It’s the most balls I’ve hit in any session. The body is allowing me to hit more balls at the minute, which is a good thing. It’s coming into the right time of the year.”