Westwood's course-record 63 pushes claim for Ryder Cup place

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Lee Westwood compiled a course-record 63 in the first round of the Players' Championship here in Hamburg yesterday. But the former European No 1 acknowledged he could still be forced to rely on a wild card to make the European Cup team for the Ryder Cup at the K Club in September.

Westwood hit nine birdies for a one-shot lead over Retief Goosen and Robert Karlsson on a sweltering day. France's Gregory Havret, in the first match out at 7.30am local time, had earlier equalled the previous course record set by John Daly in the final round last year with a 65.

Karlsson then went one better with a 64 matched 10 minutes later by Goosen, before Westwood went lower still with his 63.

"I'm delighted," said Westwood, with four and a half points the joint top scorer with Sergio Garcia in the last Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills. "The last two weeks I played all right as well and it's just a case of building up my confidence. Winning is all I'm concentrating on at the moment. If I get a win under my belt that will push me into the reckoning and I am very keen to play."

On his Ryder Cup hopes, he said: "My main objective is to play my way into the side and if I do that, that would be great. If I don't, hopefully I'll play well enough and Woosie [Ian Woosnam] will look at me and think, 'Yeah, he's starting to play some good golf'.

"Hopefully he will look at my record and thinks 'he won around that course a couple of times and we could do with him on the team'. I'm trying to push my case for a pick but I'm actually trying to play my way in there rather than rely on somebody picking me."

On a day of low scoring, 91 of the 156-strong field were under par before an approaching thunderstorm forced play to be suspended.

However, Daly was not among them after struggling to a level-par 72 to lie nine off the pace. The 1995 Open champion ran up a triple-bogey eight on the 18th at Hoylake last week, hitting two balls out of bounds to miss the cut by two shots.

Four over par after four and three over with six to play, Daly played the final four holes in three under par to at least give him a fighting chance of making the half-way cut.

* Michelle Wie shot a six-under 66 to share the three-way lead after yesterday's second round of the Evian Masters in France. The 16-year-old Hawaiian was on a nine-under 135 after two rounds. Wie, still seeking her first tournament win as a professional, was tied with Lorena Ochoa and Karrie Webb.