AUGUSTA, Ga. (Reuters) – Veteran golfer Lee Westwood said Augusta National rewards experience and that his busy schedule heading into this year’s Masters puts him in prime position to capture his elusive first major title this week.
The 47-year-old Englishman mixed five birdies on the front nine with a bogey on the back for a four-under 68 to sit three strokes back of leader Paul Casey in the darkness-suspended first round of the tournament.
“It’s nice to see my name up there,” Westwood said.
“It’s the kind of golf course that gives the older guys a chance. Experience counts for a lot around here. You don’t have to be a bomber to get round it.
“It gives you chances if you hit good shots and keep it in play.”
“Bombers” like tournament favorite Bryson DeChambeau learned the hard way that Augusta can bite back when you try to overpower it. The 27-year-old’s blistering tee-shots too often found the rough or the Georgia pines en route to a two-under 70.
Meanwhile 43-year-old Casey fired a sparkling seven-under 65 and 44-year-old Tiger Woods carded a bogey-free 68.
Westwood, a former world number one who might be the best player of his generation to never win a major, has come agonizingly close, especially at Augusta, which he called his favorite golf course.
He finished runner-up at the tournament in 2010 and tied for second in 2016 – the year countryman Danny Willett took home the Green Jacket.
He was the runner-up at the 2010 British Open, tied for third at the 2009 PGA Championship, third at the 2008 U.S. Open, and tied for third at the 2011 U.S. Open.
Westwood comes into the final major of the year brimming with confidence after competing in a string of tournaments in the run-up to the Masters, which was pushed from April to November due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’ve played a lot more than I normally would recently,” he said.
“I’m the kind of player that plays his way into form and I’ve been playing consistently well – just not really putting four rounds together and finishing it off.”
(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Michael Perry)