Westwood's new way better than perfection

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The Independent Online

If it ain't broke, don't fix it, let alone try to improve it. Lee Westwood attempted to do just that after the best season of his life, in 2000, and after carding a flawless four-under-par 67 here in the Scottish Open here yesterday he said seeking perfection had ended up wrecking his game.

In response to a suggestion he was playing at "another level" now, he said: "There is no other level. I made that mistake back in 2000 where I looked for another level and it cost me three years of a career. Another level is a fallacy."

The 35-year-old from Worksop's round would have been better by a stroke had his birdie putt not lipped out at his final hole. The 67 was still good enough to leave him well placed behind a surprise leader, Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee, who hit a 64, and Angel Cabrera, on 65, who led a chasing pack that included his Argentine compatriot Andres Romero.

"The last time I was playing this consistently was when I won the Order of Merit in 2000," said Westwood, Britain's likeliest winner at next week's Open at Royal Birkdale, according to the bookmakers at least. "The most pleasing thing is I've played well in the majors, 11th at the Masters and that was after I couldn't really have putted worse over four days, and I really should have won the US Open but for a couple of shots here and there. Nothing breeds confidence like good results. I've never been as confident going into an Open. I feel like I've got enough game, and no weaknesses."

The start of play was delayed by 90 minutes because of heavy overnight rain and then an early morning downpour. The first shot was struck at 9am, in damp, overcast conditions that persisted most of the day.

Westwood's playing partner, Colin Montgomerie, could not really blame that for his damp-squib finish. He was three-under-par after 15 error-free holes (having started on the 10th), but he bogeyed the seventh and the eighth before making slight amends with a birdie on his last. He described his 69 as "not perfect, but OK". He was more embarrassed to have bogeyed the eighth, a hole he played 18 times with guests at his wedding, which was staged at this venue just a few months ago. He had said: "If I ever bogey that hole I'm in big trouble." If that was not an invitation for fate to intervene, nothing was. "I played it 18 times and I didn't bogey at all, and three-putted today," he said. "That's disappointing... it was almost too much pressure to make a par. Weird, weird."

Not quite as weird – or wonderful – as the life of the clubhouse leader, Thongchai, 38, a former footballer who gave up that game when he broke his ankle. From a poor family, he first played golf at 16 when he found a five-iron head and attached it to a bamboo pole. He was later a paratrooper – and saw two friends die when their parachutes did not open – and turned pro only at 30. "It's taken me years to get used to wearing long sleeves and rain gear for days like today," he said. "At home in Asia, when it's boiling, I've been wearing that stuff indoors to get used to it. People think I'm crazy but the practice has paid off."

l Tiger Woods, who is out for the rest of the season following knee surgery, has turned down an invitation from the US Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger to act as a vice-captain for the match against Europe in September.

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