Tuesday 26 September 2017

Westwood underlines US Open credentials

Karl T Jones

LEE WESTWOOD made his second-round 64 at the Nordea Masters look so effortless, it once again prompted the million-dollar question -- how in the name of heaven has this 38-year-old Englishman not won a Major title?

Westwood purred around Bro Hoff Slot Golf Club near Stockholm, picking up eight birdies as he eased three strokes clear of the rest of a star-studded field through 36 holes.

On this form, it's difficult to see anyone living with Westwood. Yet, despite his reputation as a serial winner on the European Tour, when it comes to the Grand Slams, he has succeeded Phil Mickelson and Colin Montgomerie as the most confounding nearly-man in golf.

Westwood has racked up a staggering seven top-three finishes in his last 13 Majors, a series which began when he missed a birdie putt at 18 for a place with Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate in the play-off at the 2008 US Open.

He seems likely to complete his third career victory on Swedish soil tomorrow and will go to next week's US Open at Olympic in San Francisco as one of the favourites to topple defending champion Rory McIlroy.

Pressure

Yet with each near miss, the pressure on Westwood has compounded, doing little to ease the tension which seems to creep into his short game when the chips are down late on Sunday afternoon at the Majors. It's a classic Catch-22 situation.

The Worksop man will leave no stone unturned in his effort to break down the invisible barrier.

Interestingly, Westwood yesterday did not deny rumours that he is about to move with his family to the United States, which would be a significant departure for this quintessential Englishman.

"I played nicely yesterday but today I played a little bit better," he said.

"I'm getting to know the course a little bit better every day and it was there for the taking this morning. There was not a lot of wind and the greens were pretty pure."

Michael Hoey is Ireland's leading contender through halfway in Sweden, a splendid second-round 68 lifting the Ballymoney native into a tie for 13th on six-under with Sergio Garcia and Ross Fisher (among others).

The quality of Hoey's performance was underlined by a sweet birdie at the testing 18th hole, where he hit a wonderful mid-iron to three feet.

Ballyclare's Gareth Maybin loped through the cut on three-under after a fine 67.

However, Shane Lowry (76) missed out by four on three-over, with Damien McGrane (73) and Simon Thornton (74) one stroke further back.

Meanwhile, a fighting even-par 72 left Eamonn Darcy five shy of the lead of former Ryder Cup captain Mark James after the first round of the ISPS PGA Seniors at Slaley Hall. Philip Walton and Des Smyth both shot 74.

Nordea Masters,

Live, Sky Sports 3, 12.30

Irish Independent

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