Lee Westwood expressed determination to prove to everyone that Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods were not the only ones in contention for a Green Jacket. Westwood made a strong opening statement on his chances when he shot a 5-under-par 67 and took a one-shot lead in the first round of the Masters on Thursday, April 5.
The British golfer looked much more impressive at Augusta than many prominent favorites. McIlroy opened with a double bogey and finished four strokes off the lead. Woods shot a 72 to break even. Three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson shot a 2-over-par 74 to put himself in an early hole heading into the second round.
Westwood played like a golfer who is eager to shake off the same label of "best golfer to never win a major" that haunted Mickelson early in his career. He has had several close calls in his attempts to win a major with a total of eight top five finishes and 12 top-10 finishes. Westwood has earned top-three finishes in all four majors at least once during his career and finished second at both the Masters and the British Open in 2010.
His performance on Thursday showed that a first-place finish might finally be on the horizon. Westwood equaled his lowest score for a round at Augusta in 13 appearances on the famed golf course. He made four straight birdies from the fifth to the eighth hole and ended up with just two bogeys on the fourth and the 10th holes. Overall, Westwood hit 16 of 18 greens on the day.
For Westwood, claiming his first victory at a major would serve as a validation of a successful career thus far. He is one of the most consistent golfers in the game and has won tournaments on every continent en route to 37 professional victories. In 2010, Westwood was the first British golfer since Nick Faldo to rank No. 1 in the world. He also earned added distinction as the one to dethrone Woods as a result of his rise to the top.
Consistency should serve Westwood well going into the final three rounds. He has the poise and experience of a true golf veteran. It remains to be seen if he can finally erase his string of close calls with a signature victory. No one will feel very shocked if it does happen on Sunday. Betting against Westwood collecting a green jacket would be unwise if he can keep up his current pace.
John Coon enjoys getting in a round from time to time in the Salt Lake City area when he is not covering golf as a freelance sports reporter.
- Lee Westwood
- Tiger Woods