Westwood takes one-shot lead with bogey-free round
MADRID -- Lee Westwood, who cited Europe's Ryder Cup victory as the catalyst for a change in his golf fortunes, took a one-shot lead in the Madrid Open first round on Thursday.
Westwood's bogey-free 7-under-par 64 gave him a one-shot lead over Ireland's Padraig Harrington, fellow Briton Brian Davis and Dutchman Maarten Lafeber.
South African Retief Goosen, who is only $50,000 ahead of Harrington in this year's rankings, shot 66. He was given a slow-play warning on the 15th hole. -- a day after Goosen had labelled Harrington as the slowest player on the European Tour.
Westwood, Goosen's playing partner, revealed that he had also been given a slow-play warning at the 18th before holing a 10-foot putt to save par.
But Westwood, trying to fight his way back into the game's top echelon after a poor season, refused to be too downhearted.
"It was comfortably the best I've played for a long, long time," said Westwood. "And it was the most comfortable I've felt on a course for a long time. I hit a lot of good shots and hit every fairway but one.
"My good form really started at the Ryder Cup," he said. "When you have so many people cheering you on it gives you a tremendous boost to your confidence. Then the following week at the Dunhill Links Championship I was able to come back from plus-six after nine holes and I shot a 68 in the final round with 34 putts.
"I've taken a rest and come back with the form still. This was the sort of start I was looking," he said. "I'm almost happy again."
Westwood's opening round could have been even lower because he four birdie chances from inside seven feet, although he needed only 28 putts.
Davis, only married on Sunday, was the first to record 65, collecting two eagles, soon followed by Lafeber.
The Dutchman fired eight birdies as he looked to follow up on his success at the Lancome Trophy, where he led going into the final round before missing out on the title to Germany's Alex Cejka.
Harrington's 65 was the more significant, however, as he tries to pass Goosen.
Shrugging off the news about the South African's time warning, Harrington said: "Do I care about it? No. There is only one thing on my mind and that is my golf. I was looking for a great start and got it. But I started like this last year and fell away, so there's a lot of work to do still."
Goosen's victory in Madrid last year eventually denied Harrington the order of merit title after the Irishman followed up an opening 63 to finish in 25th place.
Dane Soren Hansen made a hole in one at the 11th on his way to a 69. But he missed the prize of a $10,000 bed for an ace at the ninth and a car for an ace at the 17th.
Home favorite Severiano Ballesteros withdrew following the death of his 83-year-old mother Carmen at home in Pedrena.