Westwood sets huge lead 'like Tiger at his best'

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The Independent Online

It's the week before Christmas and the rest of golf have put their sticks away for the year.

But John Daly wants them to divert their focus from their vacation and awards season and take note of what Lee Westwood has achieved here at the Amata Spring Country Club in the first two days.

The Englishman's second-round 64 in the Thailand Golf Championship saw him going out today at a staggering 20-under with a remarkable 11-shot lead. As Daly, in fourth place just the 14 shots behind, skipped back to the clubhouse he put the world No 3's display into perspective.

"I don't see how you can play any better than Lee has so far," said the two-time major winner. "I mean, it's Tiger Woods in his pomp. Except, I can't remember Tiger Woods being 20-under after two rounds any time. And the thing people should realise is, this is a very good field and this isn't an easy course. In fact, to me, this is among the 10 hardest courses I've played. And I've played most of them.

For his part, Westwood seemed almost as amazed as Daly. "Today almost felt better than yesterday," he said, peering at the gap stretching back to Charl Schwartzel, the Masters champion no less, in second. "Of course, I'm not saying 60 wasn't a good score, but it was tough conditions. There was a good breeze blowing. And to think I missed a five-foot birdie putt at the first a makeable chance on the 16th and an eight-footer on the 17th."

It says so much about Westwood's determination going into the third round that his biggest thrill came with a par save on the last. "The most satisfying shot of the tournament so far was making that nine-footer to keep the bogey off my card for the first two days. Yeah, I want to make as many birdies as possible but I want to grind as well. I'm trying to put myself under as much pressure as possible."

The point is Westwood's schedule here as been more focused on next year than it has for the event itself. The 38-year-old is clearly keen to win the Asian Tour's premier event, which would be his fourth title of the year, but with his fitness instructor Steve McGregor in tow he has been putting himself through some punishing sessions in the gym. "I'm off to do one and a half hours now," he said, showing no sign of fatigue.

It would be a shame if this performance was rated as meaningless in an end-of-season money grab. For a start Westwood will displace Rory McIlroy if and when he prevails tomorrow. Yet it's the quality which needs stressing. Sergio Garcia and Darren Clarke had to battle merely to make the cut, but at three-over they are 23 shots behind Westwood.

Ken Schofield, the former European Tour chief executive is here and as a renowned "statto" doubts whether any fully-fledged event has ever seen such a gap between the leader and the cut mark.

Schwartzel was not giving up, even if his comments suggested he was. "Lee is playing his own tournament and we are playing something else," said the South African. "I played really, really well today and shot a 66. I could see how a 64 could be out there, but I can't see a 60. And what I definitely can't see is a 60 followed by a 64. That is unbelievable".

Ian Poulter took a two-shot lead into this morning's third round of the Australian Masters in Melbourne. A 68 kept the Englishman out in front at nine-under from the Australian Matthew Giles. Luke Donald, the world No 1, was on three-under after a 70.