OAKMONT, Pa. – Englishman Lee Westwood said he likes difficult courses, clearly exhibited by his 3-under 67 on a hushed Oakmont Country Club as the storm-delayed first round of the 116th U.S. Open wrapped up Friday.
Westwood, 43, started his round Thursday morning, but with three weather stoppages and 2.93 inches of rain in 36 hours, the round extended into Friday morning. Westwood made birdies on the eighth and ninth holes to complete his round and close to within a stroke of leader Andrew Landry, a U.S. Open rookie.
“I had a good experience here the last time, albeit everybody found it tough,” Westwood said of his T-36 finish in 2007. “I like a challenge. This golf course is certainly a challenge. It tests you mentally. I sort of picked up where I left off at the Masters and the last three weeks I’ve played.”
Westwood tied for second at the Masters earlier this year, the first time he had contended in a major since his T-7 at the 2014 Masters. That experience, followed by three solid results on the European Tour (T-10 at Irish Open, T-15 at BMW PGA and T-8 at Nordea Masters), appears to have rekindled aspects of his game that had gone into hibernation.
Recording only 26 putts, Westwood found his stroke on the greens, converting on solid shots at the difficult par-3, 288-yard eighth and the long uphill 482-yard, par-4 ninth. As the morning wave finished, Westwood had cemented his position on the leaderboard.
“I felt confident out there and hit a lot of good shots,” Westwood said of his best start in the U.S. Open in his 17th appearance. “I was shaping it both ways, which you need to do in U.S. Opens to get at a lot of the flags.”
Westwood has had spotty success in the U.S. Open, with five top 10s, including career-best third-place finishes in 2008 at Torrey Pines and 2010 at Pebble Beach.
Now, with renewed confidence from his finish at the Masters and his first round at Oakmont, Westwood can look forward to the rest of the day off before his second round, which will not start until Saturday morning.
“I might come back and hit a few putts. I don’t know how the day is going to plan pan out,” a relaxed Westwood said to reporters. “I’ll probably have a snooze, watch some football, watch the racing from Ascot, if you ever let me leave here, and just while away the hours, really.”