Lee Westwood bounces back after bad start
Damage limitation is a prerequisite in major championships and Lee Westwood was a happy man after drawing on past experience to rebound from an early double-bogey in the Masters opening round on Thursday.
The 39-year-old Englishman ran up an ugly six at the par-four first after hitting a tree with his second shot but immediately bounced back with a birdie at the second before ending the day with a two-under-par 70.
"It's a good first round," Westwood told reporters after adding four more birdies, along with a bogey at the 17th, to finish four strokes behind early leader Marc Leishman of Australia at Augusta National. "I played solidly.
"It wasn't the ideal start, but I did manage a double-bogey in the U.S. Open last year, that sprang to mind, and I fought my way back to have a chance. So there was no panic, really."
Westwood, widely viewed as the best player of his generation yet to win a major, tied for 10th in last year's U.S. Open at the Olympic Club outside San Francisco.
"It was nice to make a birdie at the second and get one back there early," the world number 13 said. "I played the par-fives well ... around this golf course, any time anybody's done well here they have played the par-fives well."
Westwood, who has recorded 14 top-10 finishes in golf's blue riband events, was relieved to come away with a two-putt birdie at the par-five 13th where the heavily sloped green ran fast and firm.
"The longer I looked at that putt the worse it got, really," he said of his long-range first putt. "When I hit it off, I knew it was going to be a tricky one.
"I got up there and I could see putting it off the back, I could see putting it in Rae's Creek, I mean all sorts of things.
"I ended up leaving it about 16, 17 feet short, but made that one. I putted nicely today."
Westwood, who has recorded three top-sixes at the Masters, gave himself a timely boost for the Masters when he tied for 10th at last month's Houston Open, having battled to a share of 63rd in his previous start at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
"I hit a lot of good shots at Bay Hill, but made three triple-bogeys, one each day on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, which obviously you can't afford to do," he said.
"That was unfortunate. But I feel comfortable around this golf course, so I can plot my way around it," added Westwood, who has long been regarded by his peers as one of the best ball-strikers in the game.