Memphis: Britain’s Lee Westwood overcame a slow start in gusting winds with birdies on the last three holes to grab a share of the lead with American Garrett Willis in the St. Jude Classic second round on Friday.
The English world number three, a stroke ahead of the field overnight after opening with a superb seven-under-par 63, had slipped back into the pack after covering the first 15 holes in one over.
However, Westwood ended his round with a triple flourish to fire a two-under 68 and join Willis (65) at the top with a nine-under total of 131 at the TPC Southwind.
“It was tricky out there this afternoon,” Westwood told reporters after ending his round by sinking a 25-foot putt at the par-four 17th and then hitting a nine-iron approach to three feet at the last.
“The wind got up and it was gusty, so quite hard to judge. The greens are firming up as they do in the afternoons. It was a day of patience and battling, and I was rewarded at the end of the round with three birdies for doing that.”
Westwood, the highest-ranked player in the field, is seeking his first title on the PGA Tour since the 1998 New Orleans Classic.
Long-haired Charley Hoffman was a further stroke back after shooting a 65, one ahead of fellow American Robert Garrigus and Swede Robert Karlsson who carded matching 66s.
For much of a humid and overcast afternoon as the course became firmer, it seemed Hoffman would hold the outright lead in pursuit of his second victory on the U.S. circuit.
He covered the back nine in four-under 31 to set the early pace and erase memories of a frustrating season marred by a lingering injury to his left wrist caused by over-practice.
Hoffman took five weeks off to heal after missing a second successive cut at the Puerto Rico Open in March but now believes he is close to full fitness.
“Everything is about 90, 95 percent,” the 33-year-old said after posting an eight-under total. “Hopefully, I’m getting it going this week and I can finish a little better.
Hoffman, whose only PGA Tour win came at the 2007 Bob Hope Classic, lost the St. Jude lead late in the day as Willis birdied three of the last four holes and Westwood finished with a flourish.
The cut fell at one-over 141 with 81 players advancing to the third round. British world number six Ian Poulter and twice champion Justin Leonard of the United States were among those missing out in the final PGA Tour event before next week’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.