Westwood confident for title defence

Wed, 08 Jun 20:45:00 2011

Britain's world number two Lee Westwood could hardly be more confident for his title defence at this week's St Jude Classic, the final US Tour event before the US Open.

- 0

Westwood has triumphed twice in his last four starts worldwide and has not been beaten over 72 holes of strokeplay since he tied for 11th at the Masters in April.

"I've been playing pretty well," the Englishman said while preparing for Thursday's opening round at the TPC Southwind.

"Confidence is high, and I'm looking forward to playing this week the way I've been playing recently. It should be a good couple of weeks."

Since the Masters, Westwood has won the Asian Tour's Indonesian Masters and the European Tour-sanctioned Ballantine's Championship in South Korea in successive weeks.

He was then eliminated in the last 16 of the World Match Play Championship in Spain before losing a play-off -- and the world number one ranking -- to fellow Englishman Luke Donald at the PGA Championship last month.

Despite his hectic globe-trotting schedule, he had always planned to return to the United States to defend his St Jude Classic title this week.

"It's a priority for me to try to come and defend whenever I can, and I like to play the week before a Major championship," Westwood said. "I just like to be competitive.

"I like to have that feeling of needing to make three and four-footers on the green and that extra pressure ... before a major championship just so if it happens the following week you're accustomed to it and it's happened recently."

Westwood readily concedes he was very fortunate to win last year's St Jude Classic in a three-way playoff after benefiting from a nightmare finish in regulation by American Robert Garrigus.

"Signing my card, I didn't really think I had a chance," Westwood recalled. "And they said, 'don't run off anywhere, you'd better hang on five minutes just to see what happens'. It all unfolded, but that's how golf is."

Three strokes ahead going down the last, Garrigus triple-bogeyed the 18th for a 71 after hitting his tee shot into water. He then exited the play-off after bogeying the first extra hole.

Westwood won the title with a five-foot birdie putt at the fourth extra hole to edge out Swede Robert Karlsson, who had been seeking a maiden win on the US circuit.

Intriguingly, organisers have grouped Westwood, Karlsson and Garrigus together for the first two rounds this week.

"The Tour in general is doing the right thing with creating a bit more interest around the pairings," Karlsson said. "I'm completely for it.

"It's a good group of people, as well, to play with, so that's fine. We're all going to play 36 holes anyway, so it doesn't matter. It's nothing bad. I would say it's more positive."

Also competing in this week's St Jude Classic are Spaniard Sergio Garcia, double US Open champion Retief Goosen of South Africa and Australian Geoff Ogilvy, winner of the 2006 US Open at Winged Foot.

Reuters

Not already a Yahoo! user ? to get a free Yahoo! Account