Westwood: I have the game to end major drought
He is No. 3 in the world, looks to have the ideal game for Royal
Lytham & St. Annes, and former champions are lining up to make
him their tip for the British Open.
So, can Lee Westwood finally win his first major this week after
so many painful near misses?
”I’ve contended most weeks and given myself a chance, so I
don’t see any reason why this week should be any different,”
Westwood said Tuesday.
That’s certainly what Tony Jacklin and Gary Player, winners here
in 1969 and ’74, think. Three-time major winner Ernie Els, and
Europe Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal also believe
Westwood’s time has arrived.
It’s easy to understand why.
Westwood is one of the straightest, cleanest ball-strikers
around. That accuracy off the tee will be a major weapon around a
links course that has more than 200 bunkers and thick rough that is
brutal and at times unplayable.
The Englishman has also been a contender so often at majors –
two runner-up finishes, two thirds and four fourths – that surely
his luck must change and be due a victory at some stage. He has 14
top-20 finishes, and only one player – Harry Cooper between 1925
and 1938 – has matched that record without winning a major.
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, he is a more mature
character these days and is confident in his own game, having
climbed to No. 1 for the first time last year.
”I think I’ve gotten more relaxed and just sort of played and
let the cards fall where they may, really,” Westwood said. ”I
don’t find myself pressing particularly harder.
”I know my game is good enough to win when I play well enough,
play with everything together. So that’s what I try to do.”
Westwood, who is still without regular caddie Billy Foster
because of injury, chose to skip last week’s Scottish Open – the
warmup event for the British Open – and instead played a course in
his home town of Worksop with his father.
Westwood carried his own bag, even raked the bunkers
If that was a sure signal that a groin problem that hampered him
at the French Open two weeks ago is no longer an issue, doubts
still remain about the one supposed weakness in his arsenal – his
The general consensus is that if he was a better putter, he
wouldn’t still be without a major title after 57 attempts.
”I don’t think you can get to No. 1 in the world without much
of a short game,” Westwood said. ”I think the thing with
professional golf is you’re an individual, so you’re lined up there
for people to have a look at your game and take criticisms.
”(Top-ranked) Luke Donald’s strengths are from 80 yards in. My
strengths are tee to green. But you’ve got to understand that
people are going to have strengths, and people are going to have
weaknesses, and you can’t be the best in the world at everything,
otherwise you’d be miles in front.”
There may be a surfeit of bunkers at Lytham but at least there’s
a distinct lack of trees.
Westwood’s last charge at a major title, at the U.S. Open last
month, was brought to a halt on the fifth hole in his final round
when a far-from-wayward drive hit a tree and stayed in the
branches. He was three shots off the lead held by Jim Furyk at the
time and ended up finishing tied for 10th.
”Yeah, that shouldn’t be a problem this week,” Westwood said.
”If you hit it down the middle, there’s generally no trees down
the middle, so that’s my plan.”
Westwood plays with Masters champion Bubba Watson and Yoshinori
Fujimoto in his first two rounds.