Westwood happy with WGC first round

A ROUND of 67, three under par and five shots off the lead, was enough to keep Lee Westwood happy at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational yesterday in Akron.

The Worksop golfer put into practice some of the techniques he worked on with putting guru Dave Stockton and sports psychologist Bob Rotella before the tournament, as he warms up for next week’s US PGA.

“I played well, rolled it nicely on the greens, as well, so pleased with everything,” he said.

Explaining the changes to his short game the 38-year-old said: “Two or three things, grip pressure and the way the club sits in my left hand, and then a few things from working with Bob on Sunday, not spending so much time over the ball. I feel like it freed my stroke a little bit and got the ball rolling on the line I had picked a few times.”

But he admitted it will take time to fully embrace change, after sticking with the same pre-shot routine for so long.

“ I catch myself a few times out there where I had to stand off it because I had taken too long over it and I had had one extra practice stroke or a couple of extra looks. It’s actually in the back of your mind that you shouldn’t hit it, so I stepped off it and started all over again. I got it right most of the time, it’s just a case of practicing it.”

Rotella, who helped Open champion Darren Clarke with the mental aspect of the game at Royal St George’s last month, has tried to get Westwood to clear his mind before putting.

The world number two said: “I did have a couple of mechanics to work on, but once I’d set those in place, just forget about it and just make a stroke, which is what I’ve been struggling with. The worse you putt, the more you start to analyze it, the more technical you can get, and the more cluttered your brain gets, and that’s not the ideal way to putt. You just want to putt like a 14-year-old really, just stand over it and roll it in the hole.”

Australian Adam Scott leads by a stroke, after a superb 62.