Westwood ready to defend St. Jude title

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Westwood ready to defend St. Jude title

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Defending champion Lee Westwood smiles on the 12th green during the Pro-Am for the St. Jude Classic on Wednesday, in Memphis. [AP/YONHAP]

MEMPHIS - Lee Westwood enjoys defending titles. So with the St. Jude Classic scheduled just before the U.S. Open, returning to the TPC Southwind course was a pretty easy decision.

“This was one of the first ones that went in,’’ Westwood said on Wednesday. “It’s a priority for me to try to come and defend whenever I can, and I like to play the week before a major championship. I was fairly sure I was going to use this as one of my three invites.’’

Westwood is limited each year on the number of U.S. PGA events he can play since the Englishman gave up his U.S. membership in 2008.

But he said he’s only missed one chance to defend a title in about 35 opportunities, and that happened only because two tournaments were scheduled the same week.

“So I’ve always tried to get back,’’ Westwood said.

He also likes the 7,239-yard, par-70 course as a tune-up for the U.S. Open. Count Westwood among those who like the mental tune-up of having to sink three-foot putts.

While the TPC Southwind course is different from Congressional, Westwood calls it a demanding test.

“It certainly demands that you hit the fairways and hit the greens, which is pretty much the blueprint for playing good U.S. Open golf as well,’’ Westwood said.

Nobody has successfully defended a U.S. PGA Tour title yet this year and Westwood will face a field featuring five of the world’s top 32 in Robert Karlsson, David Toms, Retief Goosen, Geoff Ogilvy and Zach Johnson.

Toms could be a big threat, having won here in 2003 and 2004. He also won Colonial last month and was second at The Players and ranks second in greens in regulation and third in driving accuracy.

“I look forward to the challenge,’’ Toms said. “It’ll be tough to win this golf tournament with all the good players, and I’ve just got to go out there and play well and see how that stacks up.’’

The field also includes Sergio Garcia, past champion Brian Gay, Padraig Harrington and Brandt Snedeker, who won The Heritage in April. Local favorite John Daly is here again, too.

Considering the luck he had here a year ago, no wonder Westwood was determined to return.

Westwood had signed his card and was ready to leave a year ago when advised to stick around. Robert Garrigus blew a three-stroke lead on the 72nd hole and Westwood won his second U.S. tour title in a three-way playoff in what he called an amazing finish.

“Sometimes you don’t win tournaments you think you should have won and sometimes you win tournaments that some other guy should have won,’’ Westwood said. “If you put yourself in the position often enough, that’s going to happen.’’

Westwood went on to take the No. 1 ranking away from Tiger Woods, though he now ranks second to Luke Donald after losing a playoff in the European Tour’s BMW PGA Championship.

Golfers will have to deal with sizzling heat in Memphis, with temperatures expected to hit the mid-90s Fahrenheit. Mix in the humidity and Garrigus predicted he’ll need to drink 15 bottles of water a day alone to stay hydrated.


AP

한글 관련 기사 [연합]
양용은·웨스트우드 'US오픈 전초전' 출격

PGA 투어 세인트주드 클래식 9일 개막
양용은(39·KB금융그룹)과 리 웨스트우드(잉글랜드) 등 정상급 골퍼들이 메이저대회의 하나인 US오픈을 앞두고 기량 점검에 나선다.

양용은은 9일(현지시간)부터 나흘간 미국 테네시주 멤피스의 사우스윈드 TPC(파70·7천244야드)에서 열리는 미국프로골프(PGA) 투어 페덱스 세인트주드 클래식(총상금 560만 달러)에 출전한다.

이 대회는 US오픈 직전에 열리기 때문에 선수들이 샷 감각을 조율하는 '전초전' 성격을 띤다.

양용은은 올 시즌 성적이 부진하지만 2009년 PGA챔피언십 우승자 자격으로 US오픈 출전이 확정된 상태다.


양용은은 3월 혼다 클래식에서 준우승을 차지하는 등 시즌 초반 톱10에 꾸준히 들면서 기대감을 높였으나 아직은 명성에 걸맞은 활약을 보이지 못했다.

최경주(41·SK텔레콤)가 우승한 플레이어스 챔피언십에서 컷 탈락한 이후 유럽프로골프투어 대회에 나섰지만 볼보 매치플레이 챔피언십에서 2연패를 당해 탈락했고, 5월 말 BMW PGA챔피언십에서는 공동 24위에 그쳤다.

양용은에게는 이번 대회와 US오픈이 '메이저대회 챔피언'의 위용을 드러내며 자존심을 회복할 절호의 기회다.

루크 도널드(잉글랜드)에게 세계랭킹 1위 자리를 내준 웨스트우드의 각오도 남다를 수밖에 없다.

웨스트우드는 이 대회의 디펜딩 챔피언이기도 하다.

지난 대회 당시 세계랭킹 3위였던 웨스트우드는 미국 무대에서 12년 만에 우승컵을 들어 올리면서 1위 등극의 발판을 놓은 바 있다.

웨스트우드가 US오픈에서 도널드, 마르틴 카이머(독일)와의 명승부를 앞두고 정상 탈환의 기회를 엿볼지 주목된다.

파드리그 해링턴(아일랜드)과 데이비드 톰스, 조너선 버드(이상 미국)도 US오픈에 출전하기 전 몸 풀기에 나선다.

한국 선수 중 가장 어린 나이로 올해 PGA 투어에 진출한 김비오(21·넥슨)도 미국으로 돌아가 도약을 노린다.

김비오는 올 시즌 PGA 투어 14개 대회에 출전해 9번은 컷을 통과하지 못하는 등 큰 무대의 쓴맛을 단단히 보고 있다.

그러나 지난주 중국에서 열린 원아시아투어 난산 차이나 마스터스에서 연장전 끝에 우승해 자신감을 회복하면서 활약을 예고했다.

한국 선수로는 김비오 외에 올 시즌부터 PGA 투어에 뛰어든 강성훈(24·신한금융그룹)과 앤서니 김(26·나이키골프)이 참가한다.

이번 대회는 SBS 골프가 매일 생중계한다.

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