Date: February 19, 2009
Author: Paul Barbieri, Sportal

Westwood pleasantly surprised

English pair Lee Westwood and John Bickerton were both left surprised after finishing their first rounds at the Johnnie Walker Classic in Perth on six-under par, two strokes adrift of leader Robert-Jan Derksen. Having had an interrupted lead-up to the tournament at the Vines Country Club in Western Australia, Westwood was surprised to have found his range, particularly this early in the season, while Bickerton contemplated a brilliant final 10 holes that saw him pick up seven strokes. Westwood said he&aposd just made the cuts at the two recent European Tour tournaments in Dubai and Qatar but any hope of building on those performances was dashed when he returned to a snowed-in Britain that left him with little opportunity to practice ahead of teeing off in Perth. However, despite admitting to some rustiness, Westwood was still able to correct a few early problems and put himself in contention for a 27th career victory with a seven-birdie opening-round 66. “I started off hitting a couple of poor shots, a couple of pulls and got away with one,” he admitted on Thursday. “But I corrected the fault. That&aposs what I&aposve been good at doing the last couple of years, correcting things pretty quickly and I started hitting good shots after that and I played well for the last 12 holes.” “I&aposve been working on something over the last couple of months and occasionally I start to do it and now I&aposm able to pause and recognise it.” “I&aposm educating myself about my swing all the time and I can cure it pretty quick,” he said. For Bickerton, there appeared little danger of seeing him at the top of the leaderboard halfway through his round when the 39-year-old was languishing at one-over after eight holes. But an eagle on the par five ninth, where he hit a three wood approach to within 15 feet of the cup, led to the shackles being broken, the Englishman following that up with four consecutive birdies to eventually finish tied with Westwood at six-under. “I have had a good run and some bad spells and you just try to make do when you&aposre on a good run,” was Bickerton&aposs modest assessment of a first round performance that saw him sink several long putts on the back nine. “There weren&apost many short putts, which was a surprise as I putted so badly last week (at the Malaysian Open). I put in some work this week and it paid off.” “It was very average at the start. I hit the ball okay and stayed at one over (after bogeying the fourth) until the ninth which I eagled and it started a bit of a run there.” The English pair are level with Ireland&aposs Damien McGrane in a tie for fourth although Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie is well within striking distance after defying the trickier and hotter afternoon conditions to post a five-under 67. “I shot 67 in the last round in Dubai and 67 in the first round here, so things are looking up,” the Scotsman said. “I&aposll get back in the top 100 at this rate I think.” “The wind swirled a bit and it will be hot tomorrow, but an early start is good.” “We&aposll see what happens over the next few rounds but that&aposs a half decent start.”