Malaysian Open a chance for Westwood to build further
Englishman returning to scene of early professional win after another Major disappointment
Lee Westwood of England in action in the Pro-Am of the 2014 Maybank Malaysian Open at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club in Malaysia. Photograph: Ian Walton/Getty Images
Lee Westwood will look to shake off the disappointment of another missed major opportunity – not to mention the jet-lag – in an event which provided one of his earliest professional victories.
Westwood flew to Kuala Lumpur for the Maybank Malaysian Open straight after finishing seventh in the US Masters at the weekend, his 64th major championship without a win.
But the 40-year-old was buoyed by recording his best finish of the season at Augusta National and will look to give himself an early birthday present – he turns 41 next Thursday – with a 13th victory in Asia.
“My game’s coming along nicely,” said Westwood, who was three shots off the lead heading into the final round on Sunday, but played the first four holes in three over par.
“I started working with my new coach, Mike Walker, about six weeks ago. I’m starting to hit the ball a lot better. I’ve got a lot more control, I’m driving it a lot straighter and distance control is coming back. I’m hitting my iron shots a lot closer, and my confidence is building all the time.”
Westwood, who won the Malaysian Open in 1997 before it became co-sanctioned with the European Tour and Asian Tour, added: “It’s been seven years since I last played in Malaysia and it’s certainly nice to be back. I’d forgotten what a fun city Kuala Lumpur is and how nice the people are here.
“Strangely, I remember more about 1998 than when I won in 1997. I came back as defending champion and lost in a play-off. I hit it in a tree with a driver off the deck.
“But the win was only my third as a professional, so it was important. I was picking up the winning habit quickly and never really got out of it. It was a good platform for me. I’ve had a lot of success in Asia but I don’t really know why. Perhaps it’s the grass, or the heat, but I do tend to play well out here and I enjoy it.”
Former champion Louis Oosthuizen also made the trip to Kuala Lumpur from Augusta, where he was just one shot off the lead after an opening 69 before fading to 25th.
“It is always an advantage when you’ve won on a golf course before,” said the South African, who won the event in 2012. “I think it will all come down to making putts here – the greens were unbelievable this morning and I think a lot of guys will make a lot of putts.
“Last week was disappointing because I felt I played a lot better than 25th place. My game is in very good shape.”
Italy’s Matteo Manassero is another former champion to have made the long journey, the BMW PGA Championship winner missing the cut at Augusta following rounds of 71 and 81.
“I’m really happy to be here again. I have very nice memories of my win here in 2011 and every year I’ve been back I’ve really enjoyed it,” said Manassero, whose second European Tour title here came just two days before his 18th birthday.
“I’m trying to recover (after coming straight from the Masters). The flight was very comfortable, but the 12-hour time difference is really hard to handle. The first couple of days I’ll just be trying to hang in there and trying not to switch off on the golf course. That’s going to be really important.”
The event also marks the professional debut of last year’s British Amateur champion Garrick Porteous, who missed the cut in the Masters last week.