PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Lee Westwood hasn’t seemed to be too bothered this week about not winning last week.
Westwood, the 46-year-old Englishman who was edged out by Bryson DeChambeau in last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, takes a one-shot lead into the weekend at The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.
Westwood, who shot 66 in Friday’s second round, is 9-under through 36 holes. Fellow Brit Matthew Fitzpatrick, riding the 68 he shot Friday, is one shot back at 8-under. Chris Kirk, who shot a tournament-low 65 in the second round, is 7-under as is Sergio Garcia, who held a two-shot lead after the first round.
When the second round was suspended by darkness, with a few pairings still on the course, 16 players were within five shots of the lead.
Westwood’s greatest weapon at the moment is his carefree attitude. At his age, he insists he is completely content with his career and what he has accomplished and that anything more is gravy.
“I care less about the outcomes,’’ he said. “I still care about my performance, and that in turn leads me to work as hard as I’ve always worked. But I’ve been working with a psychologist for a few years now, and we just focus on the process, we don’t focus on the outcomes and things we can’t control. The only thing I can control when I go out there is the process and making sure I have fun. I make sure I have fun.’’
Westwood appears to be having the time of his life, with girlfriend Helen Storey caddying for him.
Westwood, who took losing to the younger and stronger DeChambeau with class last Sunday, insisted he as “not disappointed at all’’ at the outcome at Bay Hill.
“I really enjoyed the final day,’’ Westwood said. “Bryson played great, I thought. The nice thing for me about this week is not letting last week affect me in a negative way. I’ve regrouped. I’ve still got the memories of last week, of playing well and hitting good shots when I needed to, but there’s no hangover from last week. It’s a feel-good experience for me this week, and I’ve carried that into the first two rounds.’’
Westwood, who has won in four different decades and won on every major tour in the world, said he “was a pretty good player 10 years ago,’’ adding, “I don’t like to judge the 2021 Lee Westwood against the 2010 because I’m a different person.’’
Garcia, who has won The Players Championship once and finished runner-up twice and third once, called his second round after an opening-round 65 “a beautiful roller coaster.’’
“There were a lot of good things,’’ he said. “Unfortunately, a lot of bad things [too]. But more than anything there was a lot of fighting, and that’s one of the things that I’m most proud of because when things are not really happening and you miss a couple putts here and there, it’s easy to kind of let the round get away from you.’’
Garcia missed a 22-inch par putt on the 15th hole, which dropped him to 2-over for the round, before he carded bounce-back birdies on Nos. 16 and 18 to finish even-par for the day.
“Fortunately for me I was able to keep it together and obviously had a great finish the last three holes, so very proud of that,’’ he said.
Garcia, who’s 41, reveled in the success both he and Westwood are having this week against a field that includes 48 of the top 50 ranked players in the world.
“You take pride no matter what age you are, but as you get older, without a doubt you’re proud of anything that you do [because] it doesn’t get any easier,’’ he said. “Lee is playing unbelievable again, and I’m playing quite well. It’s nice to see both things.’’
What Garcia would like more of, though, is Westwood’s carefree attitude.
“I wish I did [have it],’’ he said. “It’s easy to say and difficult to do because at the end of the day we are all competitors, and we want to do well. For me it’s not the same if I make a bogey or a par or a birdie, so nobody can tell you that. If someone is telling you that, then he’s probably lying.’’ — With AP