Westwood moves into Irish Open frame

By Norman Dabell

BALTRAY, Ireland (Reuters) - Britain's Lee Westwood moved into a share of the lead in the Irish Open Friday with a gritty 66 after overnight leader Francesco Molinari was disqualified for signing for the wrong score.

Westwood, who chose to miss last week's Players Championship in the U.S. to help his preparation for next week's PGA Championship at Wentworth, fired eight birdies and two bogeys as the weather conditions worsened in County Louth.

He shared the lead with fellow Englishman Oliver Wilson (68), Dane Soren Kjeldsen (67) and overnight second-placed Johan Edfors of Sweden (70).

Westwood, a former European number one, said he had missed the big PGA Tour event at Sawgrass last week to help his game ahead of the European Tour's flagship event.

"Next week is obviously our biggest tournament on our tour, our equivalent of the Players Championship, and going (to Florida) last week would have messed up my preparation for our PGA Championship," Westwood told reporters.

"If you're a member of the PGA Tour it's big for those guys over there but I'm not a member over there, I'm not American I'm a European, and other tournaments hold bigger precedence for me."

Westwood said that the Players Championship could no longer be considered the fifth major'.

"It used to feel like the fifth biggest tournament in the world when it was played a couple of weeks before the Masters, now there are bigger tournaments. The world golf championships have gone in front of it."

While Westwood is one of an array of top European players at Wentworth for the European Tour's flagship event next week, three of Europe's leading players will not be there.

Three times major champion Padraig Harrington, world number three Sergio Garcia and last week's Players Championship runner-up Ian Poulter are skipping the tournament.

"I can only plan my schedule around what I feel means the most to me," he said. "They may have other priorities."

The 36-year-old Englishman surged into contention after Molinari was disqualified when two shots off the pace for signing a card on which his playing partnerr, Peter Hanson, accidentally transposed the Italian's scores on the 12th and 13th holes.

Molinari, who hit a course record 63 Thursday to take the lead, had a four-putt double-bogey on the 12th but signed for a par four. He then signed for the double-bogey on the 13th which he had parred.

Briton Michael Hoey was also disqualified for having one too many clubs in his bag.

(Editing by Miles Evans)

Article Published: 15/05/2009