Was it the call to swap in son Sam for fiancee Helen Storey on the bag? Did playing with defending champion Dustin Johnson somehow unnerve him? Perhaps the decision to rest up last week robbed him of momentum? Whatever it was, after all the hype, the hope, the incredible form in the build-up, there was something particularly cruel about watching Lee Westwood labour his way around Augusta on Thursday. Back-to-back runner-up finishes at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Players last month, which had propelled him back into the world’s top 20, had given rise to hopes that Westwood might actually break his major duck this week. The Masters has always suited his game and placid temperament. Instead, a disastrous first-round 78 threatens Westwood’s presence in any capacity this weekend, let alone any chance of contending on Sunday. It was cruel because it was so unexpected. This genuinely felt like it could have been Westwood’s time. Should have been his time. Of course, the odds were heavily stacked against him. Jack Nicklaus, at 46, remains the oldest ever winner of the green jacket. Westwood will be 48 later this month. And while Augusta has been known to produce its fair share of feelgood stories down the years, this is no country for old men. Particularly in its present, merciless state. Masters 2021: Tee times for second round, how to watch on TV and latest odds But such has been Westwood’s form, and so often has he placed well at the Masters (the 47-year-old was runner-up to Phil Mickelson in 2010, third in 2012 — two shots out of the play-off won by Bubba Watson — and runner-up again to Danny Willett in 2016), it felt a safe bet that he would put a tidy round or two together. It took just three holes for the bubble to burst. After missed birdie opportunities at one and two — how different might it have been had one of those very makeable putts dropped — a double-bogey six at the third, in which Westwood chose to play iron off the tee, for the extra control, only to find the trees on the right, was the first sign that this was going to be a grind. Westwood would hit a branch trying to escape, before three-putting when he did finally reach the green. From there, things rapidly went downhill. Bogeys at five, seven and nine saw Westwood reach the turn in 40, with a solitary birdie at the par-five eighth the only crumb of comfort as son Sam looked on aghast.
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