Torrance upstages Westwood

Lee Westwood had the unusual experience of being shunted firmly out of the spotlight after the first round of the Italian Open at Is Molas in Sardinia yesterday.

Lee Westwood had the unusual experience of being shunted firmly out of the spotlight after the first round of the Italian Open at Is Molas in Sardinia yesterday.

Westwood has won six times already on the European Tour this season and is well placed for a record seventh after an opening 67, five under par, in Sardinia. But the 27-year-old world No 5 was outshone by playing partner Sam Torrance, some 20 years his senior, after the Scot fired a superb 65.

That was good enough to give the Ryder Cup captain a share of the lead alongside another veteran, 48-year-old Irishman Eamonn Darcy, England's Van Phillips and France's Benoit Teilleria. Seven players were tied a shot further back including the English pair Ian Poulter and Jeremy Robinson.

Torrance is playing a limited European schedule to fit in with his duties at The Belfry next year, but describes himself still "as keen as mustard" to play competitively after discovering a new ball.

"I used the new Titleist ball last weekend and I was like a dog with two tails," Torrance said. "It's given me 20 or 30 yards more distance with the driver and more control with my irons."

Torrance, starting on the 10th, went out in two under par 35 and came back in just 30, helped by an eagle and three birdies. A high finish is the target to qualify for the lucrative Volvo Masters in Spain next week but a return to playing duties in the Ryder Cup is definitely off the agenda.

"The team looks fantastic already," he added. "I could play with what I've got now. I still have 46 names to look at in my little black book. Maybe I should make it 47 with myself!"

Westwood had three birdies and an eagle, all coming on the par fives, as he struggled with his putting.

"When the longest putt you hole is four feet and you shoot 67 you have to be happy but I'm pretty disgusted with myself for leaving so many shots out there," Westwood said. "I hit 16 greens and had about 33 putts. I hit it close a lot and missed a lot, I think there was a goalkeeper in there today."

Whatever happens this week, it has already been a time of celebration in the Westwood household after the announcement that he and wife Laurae are expecting their first child next April.

The birth could clash with the Masters at Augusta but for Westwood there is no choice: "I will be with Laurae whatever is on. If it falls that week I'll not be at the Masters."

Meanwhile Darcy finished with three straight birdies in his 65 to give him a fighting chance of retaining his playing card.

ITALIAN OPEN (Is Molas, Sardinia) GB and Irl unless stated) Leading first-round scores: 65 V Phillips, S Torrance, E Darcy, B Teilleria (Fr); 66 S Tinning (Den), P Fulke (Swe), E Boult (NZ), E Canonica (It), J Robinson, R Gonzales (Arg), I Poulter; 67 R Green (Aus), A Oldcorn, L Westwood, S Gallacher, I Garbutt, C Suneson (Sp), F Lindgren (Swe), J Bickerton, G Brand Jnr, R Jacquelin (Fr), R Wessels (SA); 68 J Lomas, J Berendt (Arg), P Baker, G Rojas (Arg), R Winchester, D Robertson; 69 M Santi (It), P Eales, J Rivero (Sp), M Scarpa (It), I Pyman, S Kjeldsen (Den), T Gogele (Ger), M Harwood (Aus), M Jonzon (Swe), S Scahill (NZ), P Mitchell, I Woosnam, M Florioli (It), M Lanner (Swe), S Luna (Sp).

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