Lee Westwood defends decision to skip first major of 2020 due to Covid fears

Englishman off to great start in US Open after crossing Atlantic this time

Friday, 18th September 2020, 12:00 am
Updated Friday, 18th September 2020, 12:18 am
Former world No 1 Lee Westwood was delighted to open with a three-under-par 67 in the 120th US Open at Winged Foot, near New York. Picture: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Former world No 1 Lee Westwood was delighted to open with a three-under-par 67 in the 120th US Open at Winged Foot, near New York. Picture: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Lee Westwood defended his decision to skip the first major of 2020 after being among the players to take advantage of the USGA's generosity on day one of the 120th US Open at Winged Foot.

The 47-year-old was delighted with his three-under-par 67, which left him just two shots behind leader Justin Thomas in the Englishman's first appearance in the USGA event since 2017.

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Westwood, who finished third in 2008 and again two years later, decided to skip last month's US PGA Championship at Harding Park in San Francisco due to feeling uncomfortable about getting on planes in the Covid-19 world.

"It felt too early to start travelling ten hours on a plane," said the world No 1 of that decision. "It's a strange world that we're living in right now, and people have different opinions on things. They evaluate things and see things in different ways.

"You've got to respect the individual's view on it. I don't really criticice anybody that takes an opinion opposite to mine. It's just that you shouldn't be at a golf tournament if you don't feel like it's right. I'm not saying it isn't right for certain people, but for me it wasn't right."

Asked what had changed his mind for this week's event, he added: "Just feedback from other people that have been at tournaments and telling me what's going on at tournaments and I felt comfortable coming here."

Westwood recovered from missing a tiddler at the tenth, his opening hole, to make three birdies in the next five holes before capping a fine effort with a great up and down at the ninth for a fifth gain of the day.

"It was a good round of golf. Really solid in every aspect of the game. So I'm pleased with that start," he said, having been encouraged by how he signed off in his warm up in the Andalucia Masters on the European Tour.

"I played great the last round at Valderrama, which is a difficult golf course," he added. "You can't really afford to hit many bad shots around there. I shot 67, and I felt like I left four or five shots out on the golf course. I felt like it could have really been a spectacular round of golf.

"I've built on that and fed off confidence again from that. In the practice rounds, I hit it well. I hit a lot of fairways. I'm driving the ball well. I felt like, if I did that, then there's a low score out there for me."

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