Westwood in three-way tie for lead, Tiger toils
By Mark Lamport-Stokes
LOUISVILLE Kentucky (Reuters) - Lee Westwood stormed into a share of the PGA Championship lead with five birdies in his last six holes on Thursday as four-times winner Tiger Woods ended the opening round a distant nine shots off the pace.
Englishman Westwood, long regarded as one of the best players in the game who has yet to clinch a major title, fired a six-under-par 65 on a calm, muggy day at Valhalla Golf Club to finish joint top with Americans Kevin Chappell and Ryan Palmer.
British Open champion Rory McIlroy, the pre-tournament favourite who is bidding for a third consecutive victory on the PGA Tour, was lurking ominously just one off the pace after opening with an eight-birdie 66 in the year's final major.
"I played well, hit a lot fairways, putted nicely," former world number one Westwood told reporters after racking up a total of nine birdies, one bogey and a double.
"I gave myself a lot of chances. All in all, there were no real weaknesses out there. I hit a lot of quality iron shots, and it felt like 65 was a fair enough score for the way I played."
Westwood rebounded from a double-bogey at the par-four first, his 10th hole of the day, with birdies at the fourth, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth to end his round with a spectacular flourish.
Chappell, who missed the cut on his PGA Championship debut last year, recorded three birdies on each nine while Palmer briefly got to seven under for the outright lead before he bogeyed his penultimate hole, the par-three eighth.
McIlroy, with his game in sparkling order, birdied three of his first nine holes to reach the turn in three-under 32 before he hit his second shot at the par-five 10th out-of-bounds en route to a double-bogey. Continued...