An emphatic statement of intent

2010-12-04 00:00

SUN CITY — World number one Lee Westwood unfurled a flawless eight-under-par 64 yesterday to pull three shots clear of the chasing pack at the halfway stage of the $5-million Nedbank Golf Challenge.

His card had just one five on it — the second — and that set off a run of five consecutive threes. He added another four threes on his homeward nine for two halves of 32 in an emphatic display of just why he is ranked the best golfer in the world by the Official World Golf Rankings.

It was an exquisite display from a man who has been battling a calf injury since the Open Championship in July, and has not had much competitive golf.

“I still feel a little bit rusty,” said Westwood, “but today was much more like me, getting the most out of the round.

“Yesterday I started slowly, and that is just what I have been doing the last few weeks, because I just haven’t been playing competitive rounds. I seem to have got into the swing of things now,” he said by way of a warning to the rest of the field.

And the rest of the field had the likes of Edoardo Molinari and Tim Clark firing five-under-par 65s, and Ross Fisher and Ernie Els, a three-time champion here, carding four-under-par 68s.

Fisher reached halfway at nine-under for the tournament: he made five birdies and a superb eagle-three at the ninth, but successive bogeys on seven and eight, and a third bogey on 16 frustrated his cause.

Molinari had two eagles in his round – on the second and the 10th, and a birdie on 14 took him to five-under for the round and a share of third on six-under, six off Westwood’s pace.

Sharing third with the Italian Ryder Cupper were Miguel Angel Jiménez who fired a three-under 69 in Westwood’s company, and triple major champion Padraig Harrington, who is supremely frustrated with his game and it showed during his level-par 72. Els had to shake off the effects of hitting his tee shot on the par-three fourth into the water and taking a double bogey five there. But he got his round back on track with birdies on seven and nine, and then he was his familiar easy self as he strolled home in three-under 33 to complete his 68.

Defending champion Robert Allenby shared seventh with Clark on four-under for the tournament after his 70, with Anders Hansen, Retief Goosen and Justin Rose at two-under. Open champion Louis Oosthuizen brought up the rear of the 12-man field after a one-over 73, having spent the night on a drip for a stomach ailment. He needed a doctor’s attention twice during his round.

But Westwood’s number one performance was the eye-opener of the day: Coming less than 24 hours after Tiger Woods’ ballyhooed 65 in the opening round of the similarly limited-filed Chevron Challenge, it was an emphatic statement of intent – even if Westwood denied it.

“What’s happening in California is irrelevant,” said Westwood. “I’m trying to win this tournament.”


(RSA unless specified)

132 - Lee Westwood (ENG) 68 64

135 - Ross Fisher (ENG) 67 68

138 - Edoardo Molinari (ITA) 71 67, Miguel Angel Jiménez (ESP) 69 69, Padraig Harrington (IRL) 66 72

139 - Ernie Els 71 68

140 - Tim Clark 73 67, Robert Allenby (AUS) 70 70

142 - Anders Hansen (DEN) 72 70, Retief Goosen 72 70, Justin Rose (ENG) 70 72

144 - Louis Oosthuizen 71 73

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