Rejuvenated Lee Westwood moves into view at Wentworth
Masters runner-up is two shots off lead while Danny Willet struggles to a third round 76
Lee Westwood is two shots off the lead after the third round at Wentworth. Photograph: Getty
There’s an old adage in the game, reminding us to beware the injured golfer.
Lee Westwood has become the latest advocate in challenging for the BMW PGA Championship title here on the West Course: the Englishman strained ankle ligaments when out running in the run-up to the tournament and has only played with a combination of painkillers, anti-inflammatories and a heavy strapping.
“I’m 43 years of age, I’m going to have to give up running. Maybe (the injury) is stopping me getting on my left side (in the swing) quite so quick; maybe that’s why I’m playing so well,” said a good-humoured Westwood after a third round 68 - for seven-under-par 209 -which left him two shots adrift of leader Scott Hend, who claimed a superb tap-in eagle on the finishing hole. Sandwiched in between them was young Englishman Tyrrell Hatton, seeking a first career win.
On a day when midway leaders Danny Willett, YE Yang and Hend, until his 18th hole eagle, hit speed bumps on the Burma Road, Westwood - runner-up behind Willett in the Masters last month which has rejuvenated his quest to make Europe’s Ryder Cup for a 10th time - moved ominously into position to strike going into the final day’s play.
And if also aiming for a little revenge on Willett for beating him to the green jacket at Augusta, Westwood hopes to take further confidence from his performance there in his quest to claim the European Tour’s flagship title. “To play well at Augusta, it really gave me a bit of confirmation that I’ve still got the game to compete.”
Westwood, back working with coach Pete Cowen, and also using sports psychologist Dr Bob Rotella, has purposely played a light schedule in the early part of the year so that he can be fresh heading into the meat of the summer season. “I’m looking forward to a run of golf now. My schedule is pretty good until after all the Majors are finished and the Ryder Cup, and I hope to get some momentum really.”
Hend manoeuvred into sole position of the lead, a final hole eagle enabling the Aussie to recover from a run of three successive bogeys from the 13th. It was the second day running that Hend managed to eagle the 18th and it gave him a one stroke lead over Hatton with Westwood and Yang in a share of third.
For Graeme McDowell, it proved to be a frustrating homeward run. The Northern Irishman had set out with intent to post a score that would leapfrog him up the leaderboard and reached the turn in 33 strokes with three birdies - on the fourth, fifth and ninth - and a lone bogey. The run for home, much of it into the wind, proved a challenge with bogeys on the 12th, 14th and a double bogey on the 15th although he managed to pick up a birdie on the 17th to sign for a 73 for 215 in tied-28th.