Golf: Westwood discovers his major form

The Masters: Tight at the top of leaderboard as Duval closes in but Woods finds thunder stolen by English partner
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The Independent Online
LEE WESTWOOD'S steady progress throughout the 63rd US Masters took the 25-year-old from Worksop a share of the lead with nine holes to play in the final round at Augusta National. As he had planned, the young Englishman had given himself the chance to contend in the closing stages of a major for the first time. That it did not work out after he came off second best at Amen Corner would be short-term disappointment but an important experience for the future.

Westwood went to the turn in 33 to reach five under par. Having characteristically started slowly in a major, with a 75 on Thursday, Westwood improved to a 71 in the second round and a 68 on Saturday, the first time he had broken 70 at Augusta.

In his third appearance in the Masters, Westwood had left behind the feelings of awe he experienced on earlier visits. But having got his preparation right, he was hit by a flu bug that his wife, Laurae, treated with "tender loving care".

Westwood picked up his first birdie at the second, gave it back at the next, then holed from 15 feet at the fourth. He also birdied the fifth and the seventh, from five feet. But he could not have started the back nine worse, missing the green at the next three greens.

At the 10th and 12th, where he found the back bunker, it cost a bogey, but at the 11th, where his first chip went over the green almost into the pond and his next stopped on the fringe, he took a double bogey six. Birdies at the 13th and 15th brought Westwood back up to three under and he finished with a 71.

Paired with the Englishman was Tiger Woods, the 1997 champion, and one of those expected to make a charge. But, with his thunder stolen by his partner, Woods went to the turn in 40 with a double bogey at the fifth.

Instead, David Duval, who took over as World No 1 from Woods with victories in the previous two weeks, moved into contention by eagling the second and adding birdies at the seventh, eighth and tenth to be five under. But having pushed his drive at the 11, Duval found the pond with his second and took a double bogey.

The American went on to birdie the last to finish at three under, with his 70 the lowest of the day to that point. "I came in playing well and came in thinking well but I failed to put it all together this week," Duval said. "I got up on to the leaderboard quickly but didn't keeping it going. The wind was making it very difficult on the back nine."

With a blustery breeze causing more problems than Saturday's calm conditions, Jose Maria Olazabal dropped three shots in a row from the third. But brilliant birdie at the short sixth was followed by another at the 10th to restore a one-stroke lead. Greg Norman, out in 37, then joined the Spaniard in a tie at six under by holing from 30 feet at the 11th.

One of the best last-day leaderboards to be assembled after 54 holes of a major championship, with 12 major winners and eight of the world's top-10 within six strokes of the lead, set out on the final round. But for Olazabal and Norman it was a victory a different kind just to be in the final pairing. Norman was out of nine months after he underwent shoulder reconstruction surgery following last year's Masters.

Olazabal missed the 1996 Masters, in which Norman experienced another harrowing defeat at Augusta by losing a six-stroke lead to Nick Faldo. At the time the 33-year-old Spaniard could not walk, although later that summer a German doctor diagnosed a lower back problem rather than the rheumatoid arthritis in his feet he was being treated for.

Returning after 18 months out of the game, Ollie achieved an emotional victory in Spain two years ago and last year won the Dubai Classic. But yesterday was the first time the 1994 Masters champion was again in contention for a major title. "It's just great giving myself a chance to win the tournament," Ollie said.

Olazabal's record at Augusta is impressive, only once finishing outside the top-14 since 1989. His career stroke average is on a par with that of Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Fred Couples. The first time he had a chance to win was in 1991, when he bogeyed the last to lose to Ian Woosnam. He went into a prolonged form of the sulks for almost three years, only snapping out of it prior to beating Tom Lehman five years ago.

"Before I may have had a different attitude," he said. "Now I appreciate it all a little more. On Saturday, as we were coming up 17 and 18, I told my caddie to enjoy the moment because it does not happen very often. With all the people standing, it was really nice, very emotional."

Norman and Olazabal have a mutual respect and appreciate what each has gone through. "Greg was always in touch when I was having my problems," Ollie said. "He wanted to know what was going on. And last year, we played a practice round here and I had no idea he was about to have surgery, so when I heard I tried to do exactly the same thing. We have gone through a similar situation and it is not very nice but maybe it made us a bit closer.

"I was watching in '96 on TV and I felt sorry for Greg. You don't want anyone to go through that. He has been very close to winning this tournament."

Norman said: "Jose and I have been friends from wayback playing on the European tour. When he was going through a hard time with his foot injury, I made a point of staying in touch and giving him support and he did the same for me. He was one of the few players who called or dropped a note.

"When you are out of the game for a period of time, you're wondering if you will ever get back into it. You wonder if the surgery was good enough to allow you to get back to the level you used to play at. We are both as proud as punch to be back playing the game the way we know we can play it."

EARLY FINAL SCORES FROM AUGUSTA

(US unless stated; *denotes amateur)

285

D Duval 71 74 70 70

288

B Jobe 72 71 74 71

I Woosnam (GB) 71 74 71 72

J Furyk 72 73 70 73

289

B Chamblee 69 73 75 72

J Leonard 70 72 73 74

B Glasson 72 70 73 74

290

L Mize 76 70 72 72

291

V Singh (Fij) 72 76 71 72

P-U Johansson (Swe) 75 72 71 73

292

F Couples 74 71 76 71

R Mediate 73 74 69 76

S Cink 74 70 71 77

293

S Maruyama (Japan) 78 70 71 74

T Lehman 73 72 73 75

B Watts 73 73 70 77

J Sluman 70 75 70 78

294

A Magee 70 77 72 75

J Huston 74 72 71 77

295

M Brooks 76 72 75 72

*S Garcia (Sp) 72 75 75 73

B Andrade 76 72 72 75

R Floyd 74 73 72 76

C Stadler 72 76 70 77

S Stricker 75 72 69 79

297

J Haas 74 69 79 75

*T McKnight 73 74 73 77

T Herron 75 69 74 79

S Hoch 75 73 70 79

298

C Parry (Aus) 75 73 73 77

S Lyle (GB) 71 77 70 80

299

*M Kuchar 77 71 73 78

C Perry 73 72 74 80

300

B Tway 75 73 78 74

P Stewart 73 75 77 75

O Browne 74 74 72 80

J Daly 72 76 71 81

305

*T Immelman (SA) 72 76 78 79.

Third round

209 J M Olazabal (Sp) 70 66 73. 210 G Norman (Aus) 71 68 71. 211 S Pate 71 75 65; D Love 69 72 70; 212 C Franco (Par) 72 72 68; E Els (SA) 71 72 69; B Estes 71 72 69; L Janzen 70 69 73. 213 S Elkington (Aus) 72 70 71; C Montgomerie (GB) 70 72 71; N Price (Zim) 69 72 72; S McCarron 69 68 76. 214 L Westwood (GB) 75 71 68; T Woods 72 72 70; P Mickelson 74 69 71; B Langer (Ger) 76 66 72. 215 B Faxon 74 73 68; M O'Meara 70 76 69; J Sluman 70 75 70; J Furyk 72 73 70; D Duval 71 74 70; S Cink 74 70 71; J Leonard 70 72 73; B Glasson 72 70 73. 216 R Mediate 73 74 69; S Stricker 75 72 69; B Watts 73 73 70; I Woosnam (GB) 71 74 71. 217 J Huston 74 72 71; B Jobe 72 71 74; B Chamblee 69 73 75. 218 C Stadler 72 76 70; S Lyle (GB) 71 77 70; S Hoch 75 73 70; P Johansson (Swe) 75 72 71; L Mize 76 70 72; T Lehman 73 72 73; T Herron 75 69 74. 219 S Maruyama (Japan) 78 70 71; J Daly 72 76 71; V Singh (Fiji) 72 76 71; R Floyd 74 73 72; A Magee 70 77 72; C Perry 73 72 74. 220 O Browne 74 74 72; B Andrade 76 72 72; *T McKnight 73 74 73. 221 *M Kuchar 77 71 73; C Parry (Aus) 75 73 73; F Couples 74 71 76. 222 *S Garcia (Sp) 72 75 75; J Haas 74 69 71. 223 M Brooks 76 72 75. 225 P Stewart 73 75 77. 226 B Tway 75 73 78; *T Immelman (SA) 72 76 78.

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