Westwood aims to shake Ryder hangover

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The Independent Online

The Ryder Cup is over and now the Order of Merit remains; which might not mean a lot to most but clearly does to Lee Westwood. The Englishman shook off the jetlag, the hangover and the disappointment of Louisville to figure high on the first-round leaderboard of the British Masters.

In truth, the 35-year-old should not have the energy to chase a three-toed sloth never mind a three-time major winner but Padraig Harrington is just over £380,000 ahead and Westwood can sense an opportunity, particularly with £300,000 available here. Despite the Belfry having its own Ryder Cup connection, Warwickshire at 12.50pm yesterday was about as far removed as one can get from 1.53pm in Kentucky four days before. Yet Westwood soon located his inspiration.

"I'm defending champion here and there's the Vardon Trophy to go for, so there was plenty of incentive out there," he said. "Saying that my legs did go wobbly because of the lag with four holes to go."

The 68 was a valiant performance for a player who many have accused of not performing anywhere near his best at Valhalla. The story goes that for Westwood, Harrington and Sergio Garcia it was a case of Lousyville. Westwood see its differently. "I actually played well last week and wanted to keep that going coming here," he said. Westwood's form was best seen on the 266-yard par four 10th when he knocked it on with a three-wood. That birdie helped him climb within one of the leaders, Australia's Marcus Fraser and the Swede, Mikael Lundberg.

Westwood's showing was a real boost to his management company, ISM, which promotes this event, but the most popular presence on the scoreboard may well have been that of Thomas Bjorn. He has been out for 10 weeks with a shoulder injury and came here "thinking, 78-79". The result – a three-under 69 – was rather more pleasing.

The Dane is the chairman of the players' committee that will decide the next Ryder Cup captain and his comments should interest anyone tempted to take a financial interest in an ever-more crowded market. Bjorn himself has been linked with the role in Newport, but he soon discounted that theory. "I'm only 37 and I don't think I was ever in the equation," he said.

When asked when he thought a decision would be made he said: "We're not in any rush and we've decided to let the dust settle." That was inevitably taken to imply that the committee are prepared to wait for Jose Maria Olazabal to make up his mind. The Spaniard said on Sunday that if he was forced to say "yes" or "no" before the end of the year it would have to be the latter as he is still uncertain whether he will be able to relaunch his playing career. The word is that the job is Olly's – if he wants it.