Westwood struggling to shrug off McIlroy
Lee Westwood, battling it out with Rory McIlroy for top spot in the lucrative Race to Dubai, is having no problem hitting the greens at the UBS Hong Kong Open.
It is only when the Race to Dubai leader pulls out the putter the problems begin.
Westwood has missed just three greens in regulation after two rounds but, on his first visit to Hong Kong Golf Club, the 36-year-old has been left baffled by the grainy putting surface.
After opening with a hard-fought, four-under-par 66, the Portugal Masters champion could only manage a level-par second-round 70 yesterday to drift five shots off the halfway lead set by Gregory Bourdy, Liang Wen-chong, Charl Schwartzel and Robert-Jan Derksen.
“Tee to green was pretty good again. I didn't rip it by any means but only missed two greens so that is three greens in two days but these greens are a complete mystery to me,” he said.
“I can't pick a line, I can't get the speed. I'm just at a massive disadvantage it being my first time.
“I haven't putted on greens like this for a long time. They are as grainy as I have seen for a long time. It's something you have to get used to.”
World number four Westwood leads McIlory at the top of the Order of Merit by a mere 52,321 euros, with Hong Kong representing the last event before the lucrative season-ending Dubai World Championship.
And, while the destination of the Harry Vardon trophy will not be decided at Fanling this week, for the record, McIlroy edged ahead with a second-round 68 to progress to six under par overall.
“I have not paid any attention to Rory,” added Westwood. “I am just five off the lead and that's all I can focus on.”
Last year's runner-up McIlroy is making his fifth trip to Fanling but was also left frustrated on the greens with several missed chances, including agonising close calls at 16 and 17.
Unlike 2000 European number one Westwood, McIlroy's mind has drifted this week with a maiden money-list title on the cards in only his second full season.
But, entering the weekend, the 20-year-old world number 17 insists his mind is focused on going one step further than last year after losing out in a thrilling play-off 12 months ago.
“I don't know how Lee finished,” he said.
“I am worried about the tournament and not him. There are two rounds to go and I will think about next week whenever I finish.
“I am only three behind, if I can go out and shoot a four-under front nine, I am right back into it.
“I am right in it but I can get myself right in it if I shoot a good front nine.
I can put pressure on the leaders with a fast start,” he concluded.
Portrush’s Graeme McDowell is a shot behind McIlroy, with Darren Clarke — closing in on securing a place at next week’s Dubai World Championship — a further shot back.