While he wouldnÂt go as far as saying it was his best round, Lee WestwoodÂs championship record 10-under-par 62 in the third round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge on Saturday shook off the attentions of the chasing pack with contemptuous ease.
His faultless display left Graeme McDowell and Robert Karlsson seven shots off the pace ahead of the final round, and he seemed well on his way to a similarly dominating performance as when he won the tournament last year by eight strokes.
His score bettered the previous best mark for the tournament set by Ernie Els in 2002, and equalled by Henrik Stenson in 2008 and Nick Watney in 2009.
There was a real sense of purpose about Westwood from the beginning. ÂIÂve come off three hard weeks of gym work,Â he said, Âand I feel in real control of my body and swing.Â
It was a return of the Westwood who was so clearly world number one when he won last year: Nary a hesitation in his game as he reeled off three birdies in a row from the second to the fourth, and again from the ninth to the 11th, and then finished with a flourish of four in a row from 14 to 17.
ÂI obviously played pretty well,Â he said. ÂI canÂt remember missing a fairway, and I played the par-fives really well Â I had four really good eagle chances on them and didnÂt make any of the eagle putts.
ÂItÂs the way IÂve been playing tee-to-green,Â he added. ÂIÂve just been waiting for one or two 20-footers to go in, and I felt like I had a 62 in me.Â
Behind McDowell and Karlsson was the current world number one. Luke Donald made four birdies in his round, but two bogeys saw him finish at five-under-par for 54 holes, a massive 11 strokes behind and seemingly out of reach.
And Martin Kaymer, the German who also briefly held the number one berth in the course of the year, also carded a two-under-par 70, and, at eight-under with one round to go, was scratching his head about how to go about stopping Westwood.
The next best round of the day came from South African favourite Charl Schwartzel, who made six birdies, but, unlike Westwood, and like everyone else, he made mistakes, and two bogeys saw him through the third round at six-under 210.
ÂIf you asked me now for the poor shots I played in the round, I probably couldnÂt tell you,Â said Westwood. ÂI hit it over the flag or right where I was aiming all day. Sometimes, I wasnÂt aiming at the flag and it went exactly where I was aiming, so it was as good as IÂve played in a long time.Â
He would be the last to say this tournament is done and dusted, but he knows that level-par in the final round will make him awfully difficult to catch.