By Andrew Both
HUMBLE, Texas (Reuters) - After a flying visit to the venue of the season's first major at Augusta National in April, world number four Lee Westwood said he was more ready than ever before to tackle the U.S. Masters.
Last year's European number one made a two-day pit stop in Augusta on his way to this week's Houston Open, playing the famous course twice with barely anyone in sight.
While most top players regularly enjoy a practice round there in peace and quiet prior to tournament week Westwood was doing so for the first time, and he wonders why it took him so long.
"It was good to get out with no crowds there and just wander around," he said.
"I never really thought about doing that before."
The Houston Open has taken advantage of its date on the schedule to attract a top-notch field for this week's PGA Tour event.
The tournament goes out of its way to set up the Redstone course to resemble Augusta as much as possible in the final tune-up for next week's Masters, with fast greens surrounded by shaved run-off areas.
"That's why they've got such a great field here this week," Westwood said.
"I don't want to call it a warm-up for the Masters, but it is reflective of next week's course," the Briton added.
"It's a great test of golf. If you hit the ball well you get rewarded and if you hit it poorly you get penalized. That's all you can really ask for from a golf course.
"The greens will firm up and they're obviously running very quickly. They do that to help us with next week in mind."
(Editing by Tom Pilcher)