Westwood dazzles

Westwood dazzles

Englishman fires 65 for a three-way tie at the top

Westwood dazzles

Lee Westwood stormed into a share of the PGA Championship lead with five birdies in his last six holes on Thursday as four-times winner Tiger Woods ended the opening round a distant nine shots off the pace.

Englishman Westwood, long regarded as one of the best players in the game who has yet to clinch a major title, fired a six-under-par 65 on a calm, muggy day at Valhalla Golf Club to finish joint top with Americans Kevin Chappell and Ryan Palmer.

British Open champion Rory McIlroy, the pre-tournament favourite, was lurking ominously just one off the pace after opening with an eight-birdie 66 in the year's final major.

"I played well, hit a lot fairways, putted nicely," former world number one Westwood told reporters after racking up a total of nine birdies, one bogey and a double on a challenging 7,458-yard layout offset by soft and receptive greens.”

Westwood rebounded from a double-bogey at the par-four first, his 10th hole of the day, with birdies at the fourth, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth to end his round with a spectacular flourish.

Chappell, who missed the cut on his PGA Championship debut last year, recorded three birdies on each nine while Palmer briefly got to seven under for the outright lead before he bogeyed his penultimate hole, the par-three eighth.

McIlroy, with his game in sparkling order, birdied three of his first nine holes to reach the turn in three-under 32 before he hit his second shot at the 10th out-of-bounds en route to a double-bogey. He then bogeyed the par-three 11th.

However, the Northern Irish world number one responded in spectacular fashion, reeling off four consecutive birdies from the 12th, before picking up another shot at the par-five last where he comfortably reached the green in two and two-putted.

Woods, who pronounced himself pain-free on Wednesday after suffering a back scare on Sunday that left his participation in some doubt, struggled on the way to a three-over 74 as the field had to contend with some tough pin positions.

Watched by huge galleries after teeing off from the 10th in a high-profile grouping with former champions Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington, Woods looked rusty as he mixed four bogeys with a lone birdie and totalled 30 putts.

"It wasn't very good," said Woods, who clinched the most recent of his PGA Championship titles in 2007 and has been stuck on 14 major wins since his triumph at the 2008 US Open.

Fan favourite Mickelson, who clinched the 2005 PGA Championship at Baltusrol, fought back from a poor start with three late birdies to card a 69 while Australian world number two Adam Scott opened with a 71.