LEE WESTWOOD lit up the Players Championship as he showed yet again that age is just a number – and in his case a pretty low one.
Westwood, 47, shot a brilliant six under par 66 to charge into a two shot lead at halfway on nine under, with fellow Englishman Matt Fitzpatrick in the three-man group sharing second.
It was Westy’s sixth bogey free effort at Sawgrass, the best by any golfer in the last 20 years.
And his love affair with the course gives him a great chance of going one better than he did last week, when he was edged into second place by Bryson DeChambeau a couple of hours down the road at Bay Hill.
Former world No 1 Westwood’s confidence is sky high as he bids for his 45th victory as a professional.
He said: “I believe I’ve played some of my best golf over the last year and a half, and I’ve had some good results against quality fields.
“I had a big win in Abu Dhabi and then finishing second in Dubai at the end of last year to win the Race to Dubai was great – playing under pressure and birdieing two of the last three holes.
“Last week I obviously played well under pressure again, and this week I’ve carried it on. I was in the zone. I drove it well, the irons were good, so was the short game, and I putted well.
“I had fun out there. I felt calm and in control.
“The nice thing for me about this week is not letting last week affect me in a negative way. I’ve regrouped. I’ve still got the memories oof playing well at Bay Hill, and hitting good shots when I needed to, but there’s no hangover from finishing second.
“It’s a feel-good experience for me this week, and I’ve carried that into the first two rounds.”
Westwood’s resurgence has been fuelled by a big improvement in his chipping, and he added: “I think to compete in any of these tournaments against the best players in the world, you can’t have any weaknesses in your game.
“All of my game feels good. There’s not a shot out there I’m afraid of.”
Sadly, Rory McIlroy was the man playing scary golf. Again.
He added a 75 to his first day shocker, and at ten over par he finished outside the top 140 – in a field of 154.
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Fitzpatrick is looking forward to going out with Westwood in the final group today – and so is his caddie, Billy Foster, who worked for Westy for nearly ten years.
Fitzpatrick commented: “It’s obviously much easier for me to play with someone like Lee who I’ve played with multiple times than someone who I’ve obviously not played with as much.
“And it’s particularly handy for Billy, obviously knowing Lee so well. Hopefully we’ll have a nice afternoon, shoot a pair of 61s, and we’ll see each other again Sunday.”