Golf: Zest of Westwood

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The Independent Online
A MARK of success on tour is whether you get a lie-in at the weekend. While Lee Westwood was once again enjoying that luxury, Davis Love began his third round of the Freeport McDermott Classic well before the young Englishman was thinking about breakfast.

Love's 66, to reach six under par, was completed before both the wind got up at English Turn and Westwood took the lead in a US tour event for thefirst time. Four birdies, including a brilliant chip-in played in the American "flop" style at the seventh, put Westwood clear of the field in a tournament previously won by Seve Ballesteros and Ian Woosnam. But bogeys at the eighth and ninth then dropped him to nine under and two behind the overnight leader Steve Flesch.

As someone who remembers just trying to make cuts in his first few events on the US PGA Tour, Love admitted to being impressed by Westwood's performances in America. The 24-year-old has not finished worse than 29th in seven tournaments. "The locker-room talk is that if he came over here regularly, he would adjust the best," Love revealed. "He seems to have the game and the attitude. It is hard to change tours and countries. The guys who pop over after playing mainly in Europe don't get enough credit for their performances."

Flesch and Westwood both hold the distinction of being Malaysian Open champions, the American having won the title a year earlier in 1996. The difference is that the Worksop Ryder Cup player has also won twice in Europe, twice in Japan and once in Australia. His first American win may not be far off. Whether that comes today or in seven days, which would entail the donning of a green jacket as Masters champion, West- wood would not be too bothered. "Nothing boosts your confidence like winning," he said. "I would not look on a win here as a wasted win. Winning back- to-back is as good as anything. My goal is to win a US tour event and if I can do that here it would be another goal achieved."

Westwood, who added a second-round 68 to his opening 69, showed he can keep a run going when he won three times in five weeks at the end of last year.

Each week Westwood seems to impress anew. At English Turn it has been his ability to dominate the par fives to pick up birdies while having a quiet couple of days with his putter. "I holed a 20-footer for par on Thursday, but the longest otherwise was from nine feet," he said.After only making the cut on the level-par cut-off line, Love, as winner of the last major of last year, was looking to rekindle some confidence before this week's US Masters. "I am excited about going to Augusta with the feeling from the US PGA," said the 1995 Masters runner-up. "I have been working hard on my game and today I hit even more good shots than my score suggests."