Lee Westwood made a sparkling start to the English Championship at Hanbury Manor on Thursday to make sure there were few regrets at missing the US PGA in San Francisco.
Westwood, 47, gave up his place at the season’s first major owing to Covid-19 concerns, opting instead to take a gentle trip down memory lane. It paid dividends on day one as he opened with three straight birdies on his way to a 66.
It was at the Hertfordshire course that the veteran Englishman won the English Open way back in 1998. ‘It’s so long ago, I can’t remember anything about that week other than that I won!’ he said, smiling. The one thing he has learned is that the course continues to fit his eye, even after such a long time away.
Westwood wasn’t alone in taking advantage of the benign conditions, as a host of former Ryder Cup players took the opportunity to show they can still play a bit.
Pride of place went to veteran David Howell — a hero at The K Club in 2006 — who shot 64 to be one of six players one shot behind leader Cormac Sharvin. The highlight of Howell’s round came at the par-4 15th, where he holed out from the fairway for an eagle two.
Nicolas Colsaerts, Westwood’s partner at the Miracle at Medinah, shot 65, while Englishman Andy Sullivan shot 66, as did Miguel Angel Jimenez.
Surely the most heart-warming round of the day, though, came from local boy Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston, who withdrew after nine holes of the first event of the UK swing a fortnight ago, saying life in a golf ‘bubble’ was not for him. Clearly, he’s decided to give it another go and might be glad he did after opening with a 66.