Westy's 'toughest test'
Lee Westwood will begin his Open title challenge in buoyant mood after the 'best practice round ever'.
Last Updated: 17/07/12 1:36pm
Lee Westwood feels he has already pulled off one "genius" move at Royal Lytham, but admits he is still trying to figure out where the birdies to boost his Open chances will come from.
Westwood is seeking his first major title at the 58th attempt this week, having recorded seven top-three finishes in his last 16 appearances.
The 39-year-old admits Lytham is one of his favourite courses on the Open rota, but knows the thick rough and potentially poor weather will make conditions difficult when the battle for the Claret Jug gets under way on Thursday.
"I played the golf course last night, which was a genius move because it was nice weather and there was hardly anybody out there," the world number three said. "It was one of the best Open Championship practice rounds I have ever had.
"It's going to be a tough test, as Lytham is. They changed a par five (the sixth) to a par four, so relative to under par you would think it is going to be a bit higher.
"The 11th is much longer, the traps are far more in play. The seventh is longer, so it's one of the toughest tests I've played in an Open Championship, I think.
"Obviously it's in England and it's nice to play on home turf, that makes it more special. And I think it's a fair golf course that's a lot harder than it looks at first impression. People say it's fairly flat and almost dull, but the more you play I think the more you enjoy it and I played a lot of Lytham Trophies and a couple of Opens here.
"I was going around yesterday (Monday) trying to figure out where the birdie opportunities are, and I'm still trying to figure that out. Rather than pick out the birdie opportunities, there's going to be holes out there where par is going to be a good score. That's the way to approach it."
The thick rough has already been described as "almost unplayable" by Tiger Woods, while defending champion Darren Clarke fears balls could be lost even with spotters and marshals on each hole.
But Westwood, who declared himself fully fit after suffering a groin injury during the recent French Open, certainly seems to have heeded 1969 Lytham winner Tony Jacklin's advice not to whinge about the conditions.
"I'm sure there are some unplayable places in the rough. It's pretty thick and brutal," Westwood added. "But if you don't go in it then you don't have a problem with it.
"I think due to the weather that we've had and how good we are at growing grass in this part of the world, there might be times when it might be better to take your punishment and take a drop. But I think that's part of the game of golf, there should be penalties for hitting it off line."