Westwood battles back injury as Goosen flies off course

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The Independent Online

Lee Westwood was refusing to give up on his South Africa Open challenge, even though a back injury caused him "a lot of pain" in his first round at the Humewood Golf Club here. Westwood, who just last week returned from eight weeks on the sidelines, shot a 68 yesterday to be one off the pace of the leaders - who include the home favourite Ernie Els and another Englishman, Andrew Raitt.

The Worksop golfer was still being plagued by his mysterious injury, which spasms while he is playing and for which he is receiving treatment up to four times a day.

"Its been tricky out there," he said. "I haven't been at my best in terms of preparation for the tournament and haven't hit as many balls as I would have liked before getting out on to the course.

"I've been playing at about 75 per cent at the moment and I've been happy with my form for that."

Westwood missed the practice rounds on Tuesday and played only a limited amount in the pro-am but looked at home on the course as he partnered Retief Goosen in a round which was dramatic for the South African, who made a bizarre 11 on the 17th but still finished within two shots of the lead. Goosen had been heading for a round of 63 and was three shots up on the field. He birdied the last to close on 69.

"I played a round at Pinnacle Point the other day and stiffened up while I was playing," Westwood said. "It's locked up ever since and I've had ice on it the whole time. It spasms up a lot, and I can't really turn very well at the moment. I'm not really worried about it, though - it should go away. With the slowness on the back nine today, it just made it uncomfortable - and I was just trying to knock the ball down the middle of the green the entire time."

Westwood is not blaming his new fitness regime, which has seen him lose a stone-and-a-half over the past eight weeks.