PITTSFORD, N.Y. (AP) – Lee Westwood insists he can’t remember the last time golf stressed him out.
He concedes that his focus wavered at his first tournament after his latest near-miss at a major. But he was contending again Thursday, opening with a birdie and shooting a bogey-free, 4-under 66 that put him a stroke behind the leaders after the first round of the PGA Championship.
Westwood and David Hearn were tied for third after Jim Furyk and Adam Scott shot 65.
The 40-year-old Englishman took a two-stroke lead into the final round of the British Open last month, but he went on to shoot a 4-over 75 for a share of third place.
Back on the course at the Bridgestone Invitational last week, Westwood tied for 40th.
“I struggled to get into it,” he said. “I managed to get focused again this week, and I felt very calm out there and in control.”
He has finished in the top three at a major eight times in his career. Yet no matter how many times he’s pressed about it, Westwood won’t call that disappointing.
“Somebody was asking me the other day: `Does it get you down and do you get stressed when people go on about not winning a major championship?'” he said. “I said, `No, you really don’t get stressed about golf anymore.’ I played golf for 20-odd years out here on the best courses in the world and I get up every day and go and do something that I love. Golf doesn’t stress me or disappoint me very often anymore.
“In fact, I can’t remember the last time it did. Just get on with it and just realize how lucky you are.”
So he’ll choose to emphasize that he was pleased to lead the British despite not playing his best, instead of his failure to make a birdie on the back nine of the final round at Muirfield.
Westwood has won 38 times around the world and toppled Tiger Woods from the No. 1 ranking in 2010. But those accomplishments get viewed through the prism of his major drought.
At the British Open at Turnberry in 2009, he three-putted to miss a playoff. At the 2010 Masters, he held the 54-hole lead.
Now he lurks near the top of the leaderboard at another major. Westwood frequently pulled out his driver Thursday, going right after a soft course.
“I’m just an aggressive player,” he said. “I think if you are a straight driver of the golf ball, you have got to take advantage of that. You’ve got to use it as a plus and try to make the golf course play as short as possible.”
He’s still got a long way to go this week at Oak Hill.
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