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July 20, 2009

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Westwood races ahead with an eagle

ENGLAND'S Lee Westwood has surged into the British Open lead with an eagle at the par-5 seventh hole, knocking back 59-year-old Tom Watson.

Westwood birdied the sixth to pull into a tie for the top spot, then pulled off a brilliant second shot at No. 7 that stopped about 15 feet from the hole. He rolled in the eagle putt to push his score to 4 under.

Watson is trying to become the oldest major winner in golf history. He bogeyed two of the first three holes, then settled himself with a string of pars.

Ross Fisher of England grabbed a two-shot lead early on with a birdie-birdie start, but tumbled down the scoreboard after getting into Turnberry's treacherous rough at the fifth and taking a quadruple-bogey 8.

Fisher's woes at the fifth hole allowed Watson and surging Englishman Chris Wood to move back to the top of the leaderboard at 2 under.

Fisher, whose wife is overdue in giving birth to their first child, birdied the first two holes, the second with a chip-in from behind the green, to get to 5 under - two shots clear of the field.

Then ran into all sorts of problems. An errant drive led to bogey at the fourth. Then, another poor drive landed in the thick grass right of the fifth fairway. He needed two swings to hack it out, but the ball shot sideways into even more trouble in the left rough. After taking an unplayable, Fisher finally reached the fairway with his fifth shot and tumbled out of the lead.

A little earlier, former champion Paul Lawrie recorded a rare albatross two at the par-five seventh.

The Scot, who won the 1999 Open at Carnoustie, struck a four-iron from 213 yards and watched as the ball bounced up on to the green and rolled into the cup.

It was only the sixth albatross in the championship since the R&A organizers started keeping detailed records in 1982.

The other five were achieved by Americans Bill Rogers (1983) and Jeff Maggert (2001), British pair Gary Evans (2004) and Greg Owen (2001) and South African-born Italian Manny Zerman (2000).

"The wind was a little off the left and I just hit a nice three-quarter four-iron," a smiling Lawrie told reporters. "I saw it go in which was kind of nice. It was lovely, my first one (albatross). It was just the perfect distance really and felt good."

Lawrie, who began a blustery day on Turnberry's Ailsa Course 14 strokes off the lead, went on to card a 2-under 68 for an eight-over total of 288.

The albatross and a birdie three at the third helped the 40-year-old rush to the turn in a 4-under 31.

Lawrie blotted his copybook at the 12th where he took a penalty drop after hitting his drive way right into a "horrible lie" in the thick rough. He missed the green with his third shot, chipped up and three-putted for a triple-bogey seven.

The former Ryder Cup player dropped another stroke at the par-four 14th after snap-hooking his drive before ending his round in style, with birdies at the 15th and 18th.

"I played an awful lot better (today)," said Lawrie. "I saw (coach) Bob Torrance on the range last night for an hour and a half and I saw him again this morning and I quite liked what he had to say.

"Yesterday I really struggled so I thought I had nothing to lose and I'd see what he had to say. It was important to get a good round under my belt and certainly a birdie on the last was a big thing."


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