Lee Westwood has positioned himself to break his major drought after the opening round of the PGA Championship.
England’s Lee Westwood finished with a flurry to set up the chance to break one of major golf’s biggest droughts at the US PGA Championship in Kentucky.
Westwood, who hasn’t won a major in 66 attempts, took the first round lead with Americans Kevin Chappell and Ryan Palmer at Valhalla Golf Club.
The trio carded six-under rounds of 65 with Westwood making five birdies in his last six holes.
The Englishman, formerly world No.1 but now ranked 34th, has spent the past six years full of near misses – third in the 2009 PGA Championship, 2009 and 2013 British Opens, 2008 and 2011 US Opens and 2012 Masters; runner-up at the 2010 Masters and British Open.
“I played well, hit a lot fairways, putted nicely, obviously which you need to do if you are going to shoot a low score,” Westwood said after posting his equal lowest ever score in a major.
“I gave myself a lot of chances. All in all there were no real weaknesses out there.”
World No.1 Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, No.4 Henrik Stenson of Sweden, American veteran Jim Furyk, England’s Chris Wood and Edourdo Molinari of Italy shared fourth just one shot off the lead.
McIlroy, winner at the British Open and WGC Bridgestone Invitational in his last two starts is just one back despite a double bogey and bogey in successive holes at the turn.
Despite the stutter the tree-time major winner birdied four holes on the trot and added another at the last to confirm his place as the hottest golfer on the planet.
“I think you have to take whatever you are feeling inside and try to turn it into a positive. I was hot (after the dropped shots) but it is trying to use that fire as a fuel to propel yourself forward,” McIlroy said.
“One of the big things for me, especially in major championships is getting off to good starts and being right up there.
“I have been able to do that today.”
Australia’s tilt was led by Matt Jones with the New South Welshman signing for a 68 to be tied 11th just three shots back.
Jason Day and Geoff Ogilvy sit poised to make a run at the leaders after solid two-under 69s.
World No.2 Adam Scott failed to get his game going, forced to watch Westwood pull away in his group as he battled to an even-par 71, the same score Marc Leishman posted.
Steven Bowditch shot 74 while John Senden struggled to a 75; the same score posted by club pro Stuart Deane.
Tiger Woods, the champion in 2000 when the PGA Championship was last at Valhalla never looked overly comfortable on the way to a three-over 74.
In doubt with a back injury in the lead up the 14-time major winner made just one birdie with his four bogeys.
“It wasn’t very good,” Woods said.
“A lot of bad shots and I never got a putt to the hole.”
While Woods was poor, he had a better day then defending champion Jason Dufner who was forced to quit the championship after 10 holes with a neck injury.
Dufner made an eight on the par-5 10th hole to fall to eight-over par for the round before he pulled the pin.
I don’t need to be out here. I tried to do what I could to be able to compete some and give it a go, but it is just pointless,” Dufner said.