The green jackets responsible for deciding the pairings were either trying to inspire Lee Westwood or twist a knife into his heart. The 39-year-old former World No 1 set off hoping for a fast start in pursuit of that elusive first major championship title at his 14th Masters and 60th major. His partners? Mike Weir and Jim Furyk, the Masters and US Open champions from 2003.
Westwood has reached the summit of the game and won more worldwide tournaments than the Canadian and American combined and yet Worksop's finest, now a Florida resident, must have glanced at his partners on the 1st tee and wondered how the hell they have triumphed at one of the four coveted titles and yet he is still stuck on zero. He turns 40 at the end of this month and Colin Montgomerie believes this is Westwood's last chance to avoid being, well, the new Colin Montgomerie with a career spent largely dominating the European Tour but falling agonisingly short at the history-making championships. Westwood has 13 top-10s in the majors and his last three finishes at the Masters have been third, 11th and second.
Tee to green, Westwood is one of the finest in the game. Chipping and putting have long been his Achilles heels. So driving his opening shot into the Augusta pine trees right of the first fairway was not exactly what Westwood had in mind over breakfast.
From there, among the pine needles, it got worse. His escape shot clattered into a tree trunk which brought it to a halt 20 yards short of the green, leaving him a nasty knee-trembling chip over one of Augusta's blindingly white sand bunkers. It came to a halt pin high just 10 feet from the cup. Perfect. And then gravity and the slope of the green did their deadly deed. There were gasps from the galleries and a grimace from Westwood as his ball trickled back down to the edge of the green. He chipped up to 12 feet and missed the putt. Double-bogey six. Disaster among the dogwoods.
But they make them tough in Worksop. Westwood thrashed his drive down the fairway of the par-five 2nd, which set up the opportunity for a two-putt birdie. One shot recovered. But there was more trouble at the 3rd. He committed the cardinal sin of taking an iron off the tee for safety then plopped his ball in a fairway bunker. It took a slippery 12-foot par saver to keep him from giving that birdie right back. He made a complete hash of the par-three 4th. He chipped through the green and holed an improbable 35-footer to save par. At least the putter was working.
Westwood dug in and returned to even par with a birdie at the 9th before finally getting his account into the red numbers at the 10th. Westwood now had control over his swing. Down in the cathedral bowl of the course, where the grandstands (sorry, bleachers) were packed and the oohs and aahs echo around the pines, turning Augusta into a golfing stadium, the par-five 13th and 15th holes coughed up two more birdies to take Westwood to three under par. Shame then, after grinding back from such a sloppy start, that he threw in a bogey at the 17th. Still, 70, two under par, not bad.
At least he had the pleasure of seeing his name writ large on the leaderboard as he climbed to the top of the hill to the 18th green. There he will have also seen the name of David Lynn at four under on his Masters debut.
So as the galleries swarmed after Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, amid all the glamour of Augusta, it was two lads from Worksop and Stoke that had provided the morning's entertainment.Reuse content