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May 28, 2017

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Westwood shares lead but McIlroy only 1 back at PGA Championship

LOUISVILLE -- Lee Westwood birdied his last four holes to grab a share of the lead Thursday at the PGA Championship, with top-ranked Rory McIlroy one back after his own four-birdie run.

Britain's Westwood, eight times a top-three major finisher but yet to hoist a trophy, matched his best round in a major with a six-under par 65 at Valhalla to finish level with Americans Ryan Palmer and Kevin Chappell atop the leaderboard.

And 14-time major winner Tiger Woods struggled to find greens and fairways in shooting a 74, sharing 109th and in jeopardy of missing the cut without any trouble from the back injury that threatened to sideline him this week.

It was 41-year-old Englishman Westwood who stole the show, opening with a 20-foot birdie on the 10th hole and overcoming a double bogey at the first with birdies on five of his last six holes, closing with a 40-foot birdie putt at the ninth.

"It's my lowest round in a major," Westwood said. "I've played better rounds of golf but I was really pleased with today.

"I played well, hit a lot fairways, putted nicely. I gave myself a lot of chances. All in all there was no real weaknesses out there."

Westwood's only other major 65 came in the third round of the 2011 US Open at rain-soaked Congressional Country Club.

After taking two shots to escape the rough for a double-bogey disaster at one, Westwood responded with a three-foot birdie at the fourth, added a 14-footer at six, then drained birdie putts of six and 16 feet ahead of his epic closer.

His lone triumph this year came at the Malaysian Open a week after finishing seventh at the Masters, but a big key to his successful start this week was his final-round 63 at last week's World Golf Championship event in Akron, Ohio.

"That gave me some confidence coming into this week," Westwood said.

McIlroy, who won last month's British Open at Royal Liverpool and last week's World Golf Championships event, lived up to his favorite's billing by also battling back after a double-bogey disaster.

He made the turn three-under, then began the back-nine double bogey-bogey.

"It sort of knocked me off track," McIlroy said. "Walking to the 12th tee I was muttering a few things to myself."

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