Golf: Westwood makes move as big four buckle

By James Corrigan at Wentworth

Lee Westwood is chasing his biggest title win at the BMW PGA Championship. Photo / AP
Lee Westwood is chasing his biggest title win at the BMW PGA Championship. Photo / AP

Lee Westwood's smile lit up an otherwise gloomy day at the West Course as names of the calibre of Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell and Ian Poulter missed the cut at the BMW PGA Championship.

They call it the European Tour's flagship event but, in terms of the golfing heavyweights, it might feel more like the Marie Celeste this weekend.

The loss of McIlroy is hardest to stomach. For the second year in succession, the world No2 was left flummoxed by the subtleties of the Surrey layout, although the atrocious conditions clearly did not help.

"It was a real grind and I'm definitely looking forward to getting back to playing some golf where I'm not wearing four layers," McIlroy said. "But it's the same for anyone and it's no excuse."

No, it is not, and the concerns about the Ulsterman's form intensify after a 75 added insult to his opening 74. McIlroy is splitting from his management and he is evidently far from content inside the ropes.

There were two outrageous hooks as he lost his motion on the back nine.

McIlroy has yet to win in 2013 and, whatever he claims, the 24 year-old will head to Memorial for his final US Open warm-up with the alarm bells ringing.

In contrast, it was just the sweet music of Ernie Els playing in Westwood's ears. The Open champion christened the Englishman "The Short-Game Wizard" after being stunned by his transformation around the greens.

The Tour and the sponsors must wish they have a wand that could make the last few days disappear. The race row triggered by Sergio Garcia's "fried chicken" taunt at Tiger Woods has died down, but the stench is still hanging around, as is the Spaniard after posting a 71 to move to one under.

The officials can but pray that the weather delivers its promised improvement this weekend and the likes of Westwood and Els can help thrust the golf to the fore. Both are on three under, three behind pacesetter Francesco Molinari.

There should be no doubting the quality of the Italian Ryder Cup hero but, if there was any it was surely obliterated by this 68 featuring seven birdies and four bogeys.

"It's better for me if it is this tough, because I live over here now and I'm used to it and as I hit a lot of fairways and greens I can take advantage of it," Molinari said.

As one of golf's predominant ball-strikers, Westwood can usually claim the same. But his 71 was achieved not because of consistent accuracy but consistent opportunism.

"After nine holes I'd hit one green in regulation, and that was the par-five fourth," Westwood said. "But my short game is dynamite."

A fine example of Westwood's improvement came on the par-five 18th. He found the water with his second, but nonchalantly got up and down after taking a penalty drop. It seemed almost routine, but then, it has become so for Westwood, 40, since moving to Florida before last Christmas and having more time to practise on sun-baked greens.

All he needs is for his long game to return to anything resembling its normal level and the biggest title of his career could be his.

"If I just hit it OK with my short game like this, I'll still have a good chance of winning," Westwood said. "I didn't hit it great at either the Masters or the Players Championship and finished eighth in both of them. I'm not sure if I'm due one or not, but I'd love to go one better than two years ago."

On that occasion Donald beat him in a play-off. The defending champion arrived back in England with so much hope of a record-equalling third PGA title in succession.

Instead, Donald's first-round 78, which was his worst score at Wentworth by four strokes, gave him too much to do. Like McIlroy, he has some fixing to do and when back on Stateside will link up with his coach, Pat Goss, to in his own words start "playing like Luke Donald again".

- Daily Telegraph UK

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