Notes: Westwood says it isn't two-horse race

Lee Westwood of England hits a tee shot during a practice round prior to the start of the 2012 Masters Tournament at Augusta National.

Lee Westwood of England hits a tee shot during a practice round prior to the start of the 2012 Masters Tournament at Augusta National.

AUGUSTA, Ga. - Tiger-Rory is the only compelling story in golf these days?

Predictably, Lee Westwood wasn’t buying it.

“I think everybody in this room would have to be naïve to think it’s a two-horse race, wouldn’t they?” the Englishman said during his news conference Tuesday at Augusta National.

No doubt, this is only one of the most highly anticipated Masters in years for reasons that extend beyond two of the game’s most dominating figures. Phil Mickelson dusted Woods at Pebble Beach. Hunter Mahan, the top-ranked Yank and the PGA Tour’s only multiple winner in 2012, has two top 10s here in the past three years. Luke Donald is in good form, but still searching for that elusive first major.

And then, of course, there is World No. 3 Westwood, who hasn’t finished outside the top 30 in each of his seven worldwide starts this season. With his typical dry wit, Westwood riffed on the state of the game, saying, “I’m not so excited that everybody is playing well, obviously. I wish that everybody was playing poorly.” He laughed, before adding, “But it’s whipped up a bit of a frenzy, I suppose.”

Despite several lean years in the 2000s, Westwood thinks he finally “seems to be getting the hang” of how to play Augusta National. His recent results seem to corroborate that statement: In 1999, during only his third career start at the Masters, he tied for sixth. But he didn’t record another top-10 finish until 2010, when he was second to Mickelson. Last year, Westy shot 74 in the third round and eventually finished T-11.

“Well, I always felt like I could do it here,” he said. “I always felt like the golf course suits my game. But when you come close like that, it gives you an extra boost of confidence out there.”

- Ryan Lavner

• • •

TUMMIES, GET READY TO RUMBLE! Charl Schwartzel has definitely put his own stamp on tonight's Champions Dinner at Augusta National.

If you are a bit hungry, this eclectic menu is bound to make the tummy rumble a bit more. Check it out:

Appetizers, iced seafood display: Includes shrimp, lobster, jumbo lump crabmeat, king crab legs, lemon, louis sauce, cocktail sauce, mingnonette and mustard sauce

Appetizers, international cheese & crudite: Includes mortadella, swiss, aged cheddar, brie, gruyere, morbier, chevre chilled grapes, celery and assorted crackers

Appetizers, Charl's featured specialties: Sliced bitlong, bitlong sticks, and droewers, Philadelphia cream cheese, all topped with Wellington sweet chili sauce

Wine: 2010 Cape of Good Hope, Serruria, Chardonnay & 2007 Anthonij Rupert Cabernet Franc

Dinner, salad: Traditional Caesar salad

Dinner, main course: South African BBQ, including marinated and grilled filet mignon, lamb chops, chicken breast and boerewors, served with monkey gland sauce and includes dauphinoise potatoes, sauteed sweet corn and green beans

Dessert: Vanilla ice cream sundae

Oh, to be a Masters champion . . .

- Nick Masuda

• • •

photo

Playing from the middle of Lake Olmstead in Augusta, Ga., LPGA star Lexi Thompson and PGA Tour star Rickie Fowler took aim at a skee-ball target from 150 yards. The two stars were showcasing the Red Bull Off Course as part of Masters Week.

GOING OFF COURSE: Rickie Fowler is playing a practice round with Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson on Tuesday morning, focusing on improving from a T-38 finish in 2011 (his first appearance).

But, Fowler isn't your normal golfer. He isn't all serious, all the time.

On Monday evening, Fowler took a short pontoon boat ride with LPGA star Lexi Thompson to the middle of Lake Olmstead in Augusta to play a different form of golf. The lake is about a half-mile from Augusta National.

Joined by U.S. Amateur champion Kelly Kraft, the stars took aim at a gigantic skee ball set-up - known as the Red Bull Off Course - about 150 yards from a platform in the middle of the lake.

With an inclined skee ramp and plenty of obstacles to contend with, each player took 18 shots over multiple rounds - with hole values ranging from 100 to 1,000 points. Kraft pulled off the shot of the day, using a 5-iron for 1,000 points. But Thompson battled back and the competition was called a draw after two sudden-death playoff holes.

Now, if only Augusta National's targets were that big.

- Nick Masuda

• • •

APRIL SHOWERS: Augusta National was doused with some overnight rain, but the skies have cleared and players will play morning practice rounds under mostly cloudy skies. Winds will be light today, with sun expected to peak through the clouds later in the day. There is a 30 percent chance of thunderstorms at 6 p.m., while temperatures will fall a bit today, with the high expected to be in the low 80s.

There is a threat of isolated showers creeping into Wednesday's Par 3 Contest, while thunderstorms are likely on Thursday and Friday. Thus far, the weekend forecast is calling for highs in the mid-70s and no rain.

- Nick Masuda

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