UPDATE (2:42 p.m.): Lee Westwood's flawless streak is now over. He hit his drive at the first hole to the left and it settled several feet from a tree. He had a very steep takeaway and hit the tree on his backswing, missing the ball completely. He chipped his third out into the fairway, hit his fourth on the green and two-putted from 18 feet for double bogey. Westwood also appeared to tweak his left hand on his second shot.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Not only is Lee Westwood in contention to win THE PLAYERS Championship for the first time, he has yet to make a bogey on the challenging Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in the first two rounds.
No one has ever gone bogey-free during the PGA TOUR's signature event. The closest anyone has come was Greg Norman during his PLAYERS victory in 1994 -- he didn't make his first bogey until the 13th hole in the final round.
Gil Morgan made three bogeys in 1993 when he tied for third while Scott Hoch also had just three in 1996 when he tied for 19th.
Westwood will start the final round tied for third at 9 under, two strokes off the pace being set by Sergio Garcia. The Englishman tees off at 2:30 ET with Kevin Chappell.
Click here to follow his round on ShotTracker.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Lee Westwood said he never felt like it was slipping away. Not even when he parred his first 14 holes on Thursday afternoon at THE PLAYERS Championship and Roberto Castro had long since posted a course-record 63.
That's because Westwood has played enough rounds on the Stadium Course to know the value of patience -- and his was rewarded when he birdied three of his last four holes. The momentum continued on Friday morning, too, as Westwood chipped in for eagle at the 11th hole, his second of the day, then added birdie putts of 14 feet and 12 inches on his last two holes.
"It's a big momentum swing if you pitch in," Westwood said. "That's what's been missing from my game over the last couple years almost, having a few breaks. But I've worked hard on my short game, and I'm obviously getting it on line a little bit more than I used to do. I know that was a nice one to pitch in there, eagle is a bonus, and then to follow it with a couple of birdies was a good way to start the day."
Westwood -- who has yet to make a bogey this week -- went on to make the turn in 31, which was one off the back-nine record held by 14 players, and finished with a second-round 66 to move to 9 under. He'll start the third round two strokes off the lead held by Sergio Garcia.
"I obviously finished off strongly last night after being as patient as I could for the first 14 holes and then birdied three of the last four," Westwood said. "I wanted to get off to a quick start this morning. ... So that was a good start, 4 under after four, obviously, and just tried to build from that."
Westwood, who is sporting a goateee after scratching his nose, lip and chin in a diving accident which meant he couldn't shave for a week, has a solid record at TPC Sawgrass with three top-10s in 10 previous appearances, including a tie for fourth in 2010. He expects it to toughen up considerably over the weekend.
"They seem to let you have a bit of a go at it over the first couple of days and then they firm it up a lot come the weekend," Westwood said. "Certainly tomorrow teeing off at 2 (o'clock), it will be as firm as it's ever been all week. So a lot of patience is involved there.
"It will be sort of like a major-championship -tyle mentality to go out there and play disciplined golf and not attack flags when they shouldn't be attacked and try to hit a lot of fairways, so you have a lot of control on your second shot. No, I enjoy that kind of golf. It's very rewarding if you play well."
Westwood is also a big fan of the Stadium Course, which he sees as the great equalizer.
"I like this golf course because it's thrown up so many different winners with different sort of characteristics in their game," Westwood said. "I've seen Tiger win here, I've seen Fred Funk win here. You couldn't get two more different golf games. Tim Clark's more like Fred Funk. I suppose back when Greg won in '94 or something like that, he would have had a Tiger-Woods-type game.
"It always throws up so much drama, as well, with the finish. I just think it's a brilliant golf course, and a great one for this tournament, too. I think the golf course suits the tournament well.
Tiger Woods makes a birdie on the 12th hole during the second round of THE PLAYERS Championship.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Tiger Woods has seamlessly picked up where he left off during Friday's second round of THE PLAYERS Championship. But he's not the only one moving up the leaderboard.
Woods, who started on the back, birdied two of his first three holes on putts of 12 and 4 feet. But the FedExCup leader and world No. 1 gave one shot back at the 14th hole when he missed the fairway right, the green left and couldn't negotiate an 18-footer for par. He two-putted for birdie from 21 feet at the 16th hole, though, and is now 7 under for the tournament.
Meanwhile, Lee Westwood closed the gap on overnight leader, Roberto Castro, who tees off at 12:46 p.m., to one when he made the turn in 31 -- which is one stroke off the back-nine record held by 14 people. Westwood is 8 under for the tournament.
The Englishman almost immediately got things going in the right direction when he holed a wedge from 94 feet for eagle at the par-5 11th, then made birdie putts of 14 feet and 12 inches at the next two holes. Westwood capped his first nine off with an 8-footer for birdie at the 18th hole.
Kevin Chappell, who opened with a 69, has made up the most ground, starting on the back nine and making the turn in 32. He made an 11-footer for eagle at the 11th hole, then added birdies at Nos. 12, 13 and 16. He bogeyed Nos. 18 and 1 but got back on track with a 16-footer for birdie at the par-5 second and a 10-footer at No. 4 to tie Westwood.
Ryan Palmer has just played the front nine in 35 and is 6 under for the tournament. Also on the course at that number is Webb Simpson, who has made two birdies and a bogey in eight holes on the back nine.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- No one has ever successfully defended at THE PLAYERS Championship, where Matt Kuchar will begin his quest to become the first to do so this afternoon.
With pristine conditions -- sunny skies, hardly a breath of wind -- scoring has been good so far in the opening round at TPC Sawgrass. Will it continue? Here is a look at who and what to watch for this afternoon.
Lee Westwood (1:18 p.m. ET): The Englishman has knocked on the door a few times here -- most recently in 2010 when he was in contention going into Sunday before shooting 74 to finish fourth. He also finished fifth and sixth in 1998 and 1999 and given his ball-striking abilities should be a factor again.
Phil Mickelson (1:28 p.m. ET): As difficult as this tournament -- or Mickelson -- is to predict, Lefty has been largely consistent if nothing else since his win here in 2007. He's finished in the top 25 every other year the last five and for his career has eight top 25s in the event.
Webb Simpson (1:28 p.m. ET): The reigning U.S. Open champion admitted to a lack of confidence earlier this season. Then he finished second at Hilton Head, where he lost in a playoff. He's missed three of four cuts here, however.
Sergio Garcia (1:39 p.m. ET): The 2008 champion (he also finished second the year before) has just one finish in the top 20 since, but he has played well this year with three top 10s. His ball-striking should work well here, but with Garcia it all comes down to how well he putts.
Luke Donald (1:39 p.m. ET): The former world No. 1 finished sixth last year and tied for fourth the year before with all of last last eight rounds and 11 of his last 12 on the Stadium Course at par or better.
Tiger Woods (1:49 p.m. ET): For all his accomplishments, Woods has won THE PLAYERS just once, in 2001. Though he has three wins this season, he has just one top 10 here since that lone victory a dozen years ago.
Matt Kuchar (1:49 p.m. ET):The defending champion has finished in the top 15 in three of the last four years and in 2004 he tied for 16th. This season, Kuchar has four top 10s, including a win.
Brandt Snedeker (1:49 p.m. ET): He was admittedly exhausted after being in contention at the Masters and subsequently missed the cut in Hilton Head. He was also one of the hottest players in the game before getting injured in February. Snedeker has struggled here, missing the cut each of the last four years.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Lee Westwood is battling a chest infection but you wouldn't know it from the way he played on Friday at the Wells Fargo Championship.
Westwood made six birdies and two bogeys on the way to a 68 that left him in a tie at 6 under, which was one shot off the lead held by Scott Gardiner when the morning wave finished the second round at Quail Hollow.
He said he wasn't sick enough to consider withdrawing, though -- not at a tournament where he tied for fifth a year ago. The occasional ailing green didn't scare him off, either.
"I like this golf course way too much," Westwood said. "It's a lot of money that we're playing for and a title at the end of the day. Somebody's going to say a speech and thank everybody and thank the greens keeper and Wells Fargo for putting up the cash at the end of the week, and somebody's going to be happy with the way the course is set up."
And the way Westwood see it, that somebody might as well be him. The Englishman, who turned 40 last week -- "We had a good party from what I can remember and people keep telling me," he reported, has posted top-10s in his last two starts, including a tie for eighth at the Masters.
Friday's round brought more of the same steady play. He hit nine fairways and 15 greens in regulation, using a total of 28 putts. Westwood's entire group played well, in fact -- Lucas Glover shot 71 and stands 5 under while Zach Johnson is 4 under after a 72.
"Certainly helps when everybody in the group is playing well," Westwood said. "You're seeing good shots all the time, and you get the feeling that the course is giving up birdies and isn't playing quite as hard as it might be."
The 68 marked the third time Westwood had broken 70 at Quail Hollow in his last four rounds. His 12 previous had all been 71 or higher so the Englishman appears to have figured things out.
"I guess you get rewarded for hitting it straight and penalized for missing it off line," he said with a shrug "Normally the greens are very firm. You have to think your way around and position the ball. This week you can be a little more aggressive because it is softer."
When he finished, though, the ailing Westwood was only looking for a soft mattress or plush couch.
"I just won't do too much practice this afternoon," he said. "I'll just go back to the room and lie down, really."
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Lee Westwood hadn't had much success at the Wells Fargo Championship. Until 2012, that is, when he shot 68-66 on the weekend and tied for fifth.
The Englishman appears to be picking up where he left off this week at Quail Hollow, playing his first 16 holes in 4 under and moving to 6 under for the tournament. Those weekend tallies last year were his first sub-70 scores at the Wells Fargo Championship in 14 rounds.
So Westwood is now tied with PGA TOUR rookie Russell Henley and two former winners of the Wells Fargo Championship, Rory McIlroy and Lucas Glover, one stroke behind Scott Gardiner.
Gardiner has just made the turn in 31 after making birdie on his final four holes of the front nine. The PGA TOUR rookie's best finish on TOUR came when he tied for 15th at the Sony Open in Hawaii earlier this year.
McIlroy, who got his breakthrough PGA TOUR win at Quail Hollow in 2010, has gotten back on track after shooting 38 on the back, his first of the day. He's made three birdies in eight holes on the front.
Glover also struggled on the back, making the turn in 37. But the winner of the 2011 Wells Fargo Championship is also 3 under on the front aftre playing seven holes.
Jason Day had a rare birdie-eagle start to his final round at the Masters (How/Getty Images)
By Bill Cooney, PGATOUR.COM
The first major championship of the season produced plenty of thrills and spills. Adam Scott is the Masters champion after he knocked off Angel Cabrera on the second playoff hole. But it was his play on the final 13 holes in regulation at Augusta National that lifted him to victory. For more on Scott's win and this week's RBC Heritage, let's go Inside the Numbers ...
10 under Scott’s score on Nos. 6 through 18 for the week at the Masters. … Point to plenty of things for Scott’s major breakthrough -- clutch putting and ball-striking, to name a few -- but this stat is about as good as it gets. Scott played this stretch brilliantly, carding 11 birdies and just one bogey for the week. Since 1990, no other golfer has played the final 13 holes in each round of the Masters with one or fewer bogeys through four rounds, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
10th According to Elias, Jason Day became the 10th player since 1990 to open any round at the Masters birdie-eagle. … Day opened his final round 3-3 before bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 ultimately ruined his chances of joining a playoff with Scott and Angel Cabrera. Three other players opened 3 under in the final round: Mark O'Meara (2001), Mark Calcavecchia (2007) and Louis Oosthuizen (2012).
13 Shot differential between Ryan Moore’s third and fourth round at the Masters. … Moore posted an 81 on Saturday but rebounded with a 4-under 68 to finish T38. According to Elias, in the last 10 years at the Masters, only two other players made at 13-shot improvement from one round to the next: Charles Coody and Mark Hensby in 2006.
No. 18 The scenic, 472-yard 18th hole at Harbour Town, home to this week’s RBC Heritage, ranked as the 18th most-difficult closing hole on the PGA TOUR last season. … With light winds last year, the hole played quite easy compared to past seasons at .179 strokes over par. The hole has averaged over par for the tournament every year since 1997.
76.67 percent Scrambling percentage at the Masters for Lee Westwood, who ranked first in that category, saving 23 of 30 shots. … The move to South Florida continues to pay off for the Englishman. Quite frankly, his short game turnaround in 2013 is remarkable. Last season, Westwood ranked 191st in scrambling at 48.30 percent. This season, he ranks seventh on TOUR at 67.24 percent. Still, Westwood has just three top 10s in eight events. The culprit? ...
T109 Rank in 2013 for Westwood in greens in regulation at 65.48 percent. … Yes, this is a major surprise and likely the reason that Westwood hasn’t enjoyed a monster season thus far. Last year, Westwood was third in greens at 69.75 percent and he’s known as one of the better ball-strikers on TOUR. Westwood has also struggled with his putter, ranking 127th in strokes gained-putting, an area that has always been his nemesis.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS ARCHIVE
Week 2: Sony Open/Humana Challenge
Week 10: WGC-Cadillac/Tampa Bay Championship
Week 12: Shell Houston Open
Week 13: Valero Texas Open
Week 14: The Masters
Lee Westwood took advantage of the par-5s and made a move on Saturday. (Cannon/Getty Images)
By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
HUMBLE Texas – Lee Westwood was smiling after his third-round 67 and the moment was duly noted by the press.
“Golfers are never satisfied, are we?’’ he said with a grin. “We roll a few in and think we can roll a few more in. Just a vicious circle. I like the way I putted it today and the greens were a little bit slower, that's what I found tricky about it. Left a lot of putts short.’’
Made a few too, which put him into position to contend in Sunday’s final round. He walked off the course just two shots behind the leaders and is one of about a dozen players with a good chance to win the Shell Houston Open.
The 67 left him at 9-under, two back of the leaders, going into the final round, but it could have been one better if he hadn’t bogeyed 18.
“I played much more solid today,’’ said Westwood, who shot even-par Friday. “I played the par 5s in 3-under par. The first day I was 1-over. You can't afford to do that.
“Today, it was obviously a lot better. I'll shoot lower scores if I start playing the par 5s better ... I mean, built up a little bit more confidence and I hit the ball really nice today. It's longer, so I'm sure I'll start to swing at it better and made a few putts as well.’’
By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
HUMBLE, Texas -- Two balls in the water at the eighth hole. Another bogey on the front.
And, before you ask, neither one had anything to do with the wind that was snapping around every corner at Redstone Thursday morning.
It was all Lee Westwood.
“Operator error? No. It was the organ grinder,’’ he said grinning.
What else could he do?
What should have been at worst a 66 turned into an opening 4-under 68, so it was hard to complain too much. Unless you count the grumbling about his lousy par-5 play this year.
“I must have the worst par 5s of anyone this year,’’ said Westwood, who tied for eighth at the 2010 Shell Houston Open. “It was like dropping four shots really. A 68 is as high has I could have shot.’’
A run of three birdies at 12, 13 and 14 righted things just a bit, but Westwood was still a bit miffed. He’s been hard at work on his short game all year and these little blips keep popping up.
“I don’t know whether I’m trying to be too aggressive or what," he said. "I suppose it goes in spells like that. It’s not like they were two really bad shots on the par 5s, really."
Just bad enough that his short game had to save the day for bogey.
“My short game and pitching are really good, so there’s no reason why the par-5 scoring shouldn’t sharpen up,’’ he said.
Hopefully, he said, in time for the Masters. Westwood plans to take next week off, then head to Augusta, play an 18-hole practice round Monday, then nine holes each the next two days to ease into the year’s first major.
And take advantage of his putter the way he did in the opening round.
He made four putts of 10 feet or longer -- and a tough chip at 17, which settled in just 7 feet away, which bodes well for this week, not just the Masters.