Westwood looks sharp in US Open warm-up

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The Independent Online

Lee Westwood yesterday began his warm-up tournament for next week's US Open in impressive style The world No 3 shot a seven-under 63 to set the clubhouse target in the St Jude Classic in Memphis.

Yet it could have been an even better start for the Englishman. Westwood was seven-under after 11 holes and later confessed that a magic number had flashed across his mind.

"I wasn't even aware I'd shot 29 on the front nine," said Westwood. "But then I birdied the first [his 10th], and I had about an eight-footer on the next for birdie and thought knock this in, try to birdie the next. I needed a few more for a 59. But to shoot a 29 you have to roll in a few putts and the putts didn't continue to go in. That's how it is sometimes."

Indeed, Westwood missed a birdie four-footer on the last. However he was not about to let that ruin a morning which saw him top the leaderboard from the American Casey Wittenburg on six-under.

It was just the opening Westwood had wished for as he prepared for the season's second major. Having notched up two thirds and a runners-up place in the last three majors, Westwood will go in as one of the favourites at Pebble Beach, the course where he came fifth the last time the US Open was held there 10 years ago.

Westwood reacquainted himself with the picturesque coastal layout in practice rounds earlier this week. "I played 27 holes on Sunday and eight holes on Monday morning," he said. "It is in spectacular condition. A real demanding test. It's going to be tough. Every US Open venue is a ball-striker's course and this will be no different."

There was also a richly promising display by Padraig Harrington. The Irishman – who finished alongside Westwood at Pebble Beach in 2000 – fired a 65 to lie just two back from his Ryder Cup team-mate, despite playing his first round in almost a month. The three-time major champion underwent surgery on his knee following last month's BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and is still recovering.

Harrington and his medical team were so unsure of his progress that he opted to sit out of Wednesday's pro-am in Memphis. But he hit the ground running with five birdies and no bogeys.