Westwood (64) off to fast start after slow season


This has not been a season to remember for Lee Westwood.

After a somewhat promising spring, the Englishman battled issues both on and off the course during the summer. His game faltered, and his appearances on tournament leaderboards went from regular to non-existent.

That changed quickly Thursday at the Turkish Airlines Open, where Westwood shot a bogey-free 64 to grab second place, three shots behind Jaco Van Zyl.

Westwood's early-season highlights included a T-5 finish in Malaysia, a T-9 finish at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play and a playoff win in Indonesia on the Asian Tour. Over the summer, though, news broke of his pending divorce from wife Laurae, ending a 16-year union that understandably took a toll on his performance.

The Englishman hasn't cracked the top 10 since May, and after starting the year ranked No. 26, he has slipped to 46th in the latest rankings. At age 42, Westwood is two years removed from his most recent chance at a major - the 2013 Open at Muirfield - and is often seen as aging out of any discussion of "best players without a major."

While this week's event in Turkey doesn't off a claret jug to its winner, a victory could spark a turnaround for Westwood as he looks to return to an elite level. He opened with a birdie on No. 10, then added four straight birdies on Nos. 14-17 to charge up the standings.

Westwood's 64 was all the more impressive considering that he failed to take advantage of the scoring holes at Montgomerie Maxx Royal, which offers five par 5s. Westwood was able to birdie only one of them, but he found 15 of 18 greens in regulation and needed only 26 putts to complete his round.

While one day a comeback does not make, Thursday's opener showed that Westwood still possesses the game necessary to compete with some of the world's best. It also affords him the opportunity for a late highlight amid what was otherwise a largely forgettable season.