Lee Westwood is having a miserable season, summed up here yesterday by the way he let slip his grip on his Great North Open title, but at least he held on to his sense of humour.
Europe's No 1 walked off the final green with an 81, nine over par and 15 shots worse than the leader, Darren Lee, after a spectacularly bad finish. Westwood was level par after 11 holes, but had three double-bogeys and three bogeys in the remaining seven to trudge home in 45.
The world No 5 seemed resigned to scoring poorly and at least his round was not his worst on the European Tour he finished with an 85 in the Benson and Hedges International in 1996 at The Oxfordshire.
"I haven't hit the ball well for five months so I don't know why it should get better all of a sudden," said Westwood, who has been making changes to his swing after a long lay-off around the birth of his first child in April and missed the cut at the US Open last week. "I didn't hit it well even for the first 11 holes and after that just got sick of scrambling and was in a bad frame of mind. But you can't have it go well all the time and it's just one of those things you have to go through."
Asked if he could see light at the end of the tunnel, he added: "No, I think someone's turned it off. Coming up the last I thought my score for the last seven holes [6-5-6-5-5-5-5] reminded me of the phone number for the vet in Worksop."
Later in the day, Lee took full advantage of a reduction in the strength of the wind to become one of only two players in the 144-man field not to drop a shot. He had six birdies in his flawless round to open a two-shot lead over the field. The 36-year-old from Essex, who never plays practice rounds before tournaments, rounded off the day with a 50-foot birdie putt on the ninth, his final hole.
GREAT NORTH OPEN (Slaley Hall) Leading first-round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 66 D Lee. 68 A Coltart, J Spence. 69 G Turner (NZ), A Oldcorn, R Chapman, B Dredge, S Gardiner (Aus). 70 N Dougherty, J Robinson, G Brand Jnr, P Baker, J Rose, G Evans. 71 R Wessels (SA), S Hansen (Den), N Colsaerts (Bel), S P Webster, G J Brand, L Parsons (Aus), M Pilkington, P Casey, M Pendaries (Fr), P Fowler (Aus). 72 M Roe, G Owen, C Rodiles (Sp), A Beal, C Hislop, D Orr, S Dyson, M Reale (It), M Santi (It), W Bennett, P Nyman (Swe), N Vanhootegem (Bel), R Bland. 73 H Bjornstad (Nor), C Watts, S Webster, I Poulter, M Scarpa (It), G Rankin, G Havret (Fr), C Cevaer (Fr), C Hainline (US), J Lomas, D Gilford, D Robertson, F Jacobson (Swe), M Nilsson (Swe), R Byrd (US). 74 I Pyman, M Lanner (Swe), F Andersson (Swe), P Eales, R McFarlane, G Houston, G Storm, E Boult (NZ), E Simsek (Ger), M Bernardini (It), P Gribben, R Weir, J Berendt (Arg), B Rumford (Aus), M James, A Raitt, H Otto (SA), S Scahill (NZ), D Carter, O Karlsson (Swe), M Blackey, P Golding, J Wade (Aus), P Archer. 75 H Walters (SA), R Green (Aus), S Dodd, E Carlberg (Swe), J Hugo (SA), M Mouland, M Archer, S Drummond, J Rask (Swe), M Florioli (It), W Riley (Aus), B Davis, D Lynn, F Cea (Sp), P Nilbrink (Swe). 76 TJ Munoz (Sp), F Valera (Sp), M Mackenzie, WT Yeh (Tpe), G Emerson, G Rojas (Arg), B Lane, A Marshall, J Harrison, C Pottier (Fr), N Cheetham, P Sherman, S Gallacher, R McGuirk, F Henge (Swe). Selected: 81 L Westwood.Reuse content