Lee Westwood confident after strong start to Nordea Masters
FORMER world number one Lee Westwood expects to be back in the winner's circle soon after making an excellent start to his bid for a historic fourth victory in the Nordea Masters.
Westwood carded six birdies and two bogeys in an opening 68 to lie a shot off the clubhouse lead shared by fellow Englishman Andrew Johnston, Scottish pair Scott Henry and Marc Warren, Germany's Florian Fritsch and the French duo of Clement Berardo and Sebastien Gros.
The 43-year-old came into the event on the back of a disappointing result in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, where he went into the final round two shots off the lead but struggled to a closing 76.
But having finished second in the Masters and 10th in the Irish Open in his previous two starts, Westwood believes a 24th European Tour title could be just around the corner: "Obviously, it's nice to come back to places you've won on before, but I'm more happy with the fact that I'm starting to hit the ball really well and seeing the flight on the shots that I like and, on the greens, I rolled the ball really well today," said Westwood, who won his first European Tour title in Sweden in 1996 and also tasted success in 2000 and '12.
"My short game has been sharp for quite some time now, so I do really feel like I should start winning tournaments again soon. It's not an easy golf course, there's a lot of water out there and a bit of breeze. You have to hit the ball well as it's very long, but there are a lot of birdie chances out there if you hit the ball in the fairway."
Johnston, who won the Spanish Open in April, carded five birdies and no bogeys in his 67 despite feeling the effects of securing a US Open debut in Monday's 36-hole qualifier at Walton Heath after finishing seventh at Wentworth the day before.
"I came in with not too much expectation," Johnston said.
"I said 'don't be too hard on yourself and just go out and play'. I woke up this morning at 5am and thought 'Oh no, I could do with another eight hours' sleep. We played two rounds in a strong wind on Monday and then coming here, flying again, packing again, it just does you in mentally a bit."
Henry recorded three birdies and an eagle and also managed to keep a bogey off his card with an adventurous par on the 18th: "I was pretty solid off the tee until the last hole and then ended up pretty much in the car park, but I got a line-of-sight drop and played probably my best shot of the day to give me pretty much an easy par," he said.
That recovery shot involved hitting over a vintage convertible sports car and the 29-year-old from Glasgow joked: "I think the owner was a bit nervous to be honest when it was only 20 feet in front of me. It was one of those shots where you just have to go for it and I pulled it off.
"I've been playing on the Challenge Tour after just missing getting my full card back but I'm probably more relaxed because I'm not getting as many starts as I would like. Whenever they do come up it's just have a go and enjoy it."
English trio Matt Wallace, Matt Fitzpatrick and Ross Fisher were alongside Westwood on four under par, with Wallace playing on an invite after recording four consecutive wins on the Alps Tour this season.