Wash-out leaves Westwood waiting

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The Independent Online

As tornado warnings flashed all around here early yesterday, Sawgrass saw puddles, saw lightning, saw clouds, but, alas, very little of the scheduled second round. Lee Westwood was reflecting on this time last year when he was deemed not good enough to be at The Players Championship for the second depressing year in a row.

As tornado warnings flashed all around here early yesterday, Sawgrass saw puddles, saw lightning, saw clouds, but, alas, very little of the scheduled second round. Lee Westwood was reflecting on this time last year when he was deemed not good enough to be at The Players Championship for the second depressing year in a row.

He was still in the throes of his stirring comeback then, painstakingly compiling any ranking point he could to get him back in the world's top 50 and all the exemptions that exalted position brings. So what to do, as the rest of the world's finest - an élite that the Worksop golfer is such a natural member of - gathered in the year's first "biggie"?

"What was I doing, when I should have been here?" said Westwood. "Actually I was at home contemplating going over to Dubai to watch my horse run. I wish I'd gone, too. The bloody thing only went and won."

In fact, Right Approach deadheated for first in the prestigious Dubai Duty Free Stakes, earning Westwood and his fellow co-owners - who include his manager, Chubby Chandler - a cool £450,000. A lot of money, no question, but not quite the £800,000 that the winner here will pick up. It would mean far, far more to Westwood, however, representing his arrival in a winner's enclosure that would at last befit a talent that did as much as any other to carry Europe to that unforgettable Ryder Cup triumph last autumn.

"Yeah, it was nice to come back to the TPC," said Westwood after a first-round 66 on Thursday left him nicely placed, two shots adrift of the surprise leader, Steve Jones. "The course holds good memories. I think I finished fifth and sixth on my first two visits here. So, yeah, I was looking really forward to this week."

He failed to mention that his last two visits to the Stadium Course yielded two X-rated missed cuts, but as he was deep in Disneyland county perhaps this piece of blatant make-believe could be excused.

As it could for Sergio Garcia, who was standing alongside his Ryder Cup playing partner in both his first-round score and his fondness of the Florida showcourse. "I've always liked this place, always felt good about it," said the Spaniard, glossing over the fact that his fourth-place finish here three years ago was flanked by a series of missed cuts.

Conversely, Padraig Harrington's Sawgrass suitability is in no doubt. Runner-up the last two years, the Irishman's first-round 67 was surprising only because of the personal torment he must be labouring under as his father fights inoperable cancer in a Dublin hospital. "As I've said before I'd rather not be here," he said. "But the fact that I am here means I'm going to try to do my job as professionally as I can."

Unfortunately, there appeared little chance of that yesterday as a weather pattern arrived in north Florida that bore an uncanny resemblance to that beast of a storm in The Day After Tomorrow. Indeed, the feeling here yesterday was that the likelihood of a finish to the tournament the day after tomorrow was starting to look long odds-on.

* Colin Montgomerie's hopes of qualifying for the US Masters all but disappeared on the second day of the Indonesia Open in Jakarta before a thunderstorm brought an early end to play yesterday. Montgomerie needs to win to be certain of appearing at Augusta next month but was three under par, 11 shots off the lead.

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