The first day of the 2014 PGA Championship is in the books, and there are plenty of the usual suspects in contention. One name at the top, however, stands out, as Lee Westwood highlights the lead group after an impressive opening round of six-under-par 65.
The 41-year-old Englishman has become a staple at the top of major championship leaderboards, although he famously still has yet to win one. Westwood had a solid run at this year’s Masters Tournament, finishing in seventh place for his ninth major top-ten since 2010, but then missed four of his next five PGA Tour cuts, including both the U.S. Open and the Open Championship.
Westwood is part of a trio at six-under, including Kevin Chappell and Ryan Palmer, but his nine birdies were the story of the day. Playing off the tenth tee with Adam Scott and Jordan Spieth, Westwood made the turn at -3, made a tough double bogey on No. 1, then ran off four straight birdies to close out the round.
It was his lowest round ever in a major championship, and following on the heels of a Sunday 63 at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, it looks like Westwood is finally peaking at the right time. There’s plenty of work to be done, but he seems to be carrying a high level of confidence, which is sometimes all it takes to separate a true contender from an also-ran.
“I was playing a lot better than the scores were showing [at Firestone], so it was nice to shoot 63 on Sunday and turn good swing and good technique into a good score,” Westwood said. “That obviously gave me some confidence coming into this week.”
Westwood has only posted two top-tens on the PGA Tour in 2014, but he’s also struggled to get off to solid starts, often playing catch-up for days. With guys like Rory McIlroy, Jim Furyk and Henrik Stenson lurking close behind, the going isn’t going to get any easier, but Westwood is staking his claim early as a player to watch tomorrow and possibly through the weekend.