Lee leads, but Lefty’s not out of it
England’s Lee Westwood could on Sunday make it three European victories in a row at golf’s richest event.
After 108 starts in America since his one and only win 12 years ago Lee Westwood could on Sunday make it three European victories in a row at golf’s richest event.
The world number four, trying to follow Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson, goes into the final round of the £6.2million Players Championship at Sawgrass in Florida one ahead of Australian Robert Allenby.
That was the advantage he held at halfway, but it was far from smooth sailing for the Worksop 37-year-old before he handed in a two under par 70.
First American Heath Slocum moved into a two-shot lead before bogeying the 13th and 15th and horribly dumping his tee shot into the water at the near island green short 17th.
Just before that Allenby had made it a three-way tie thanks to a 14-foot eagle putt at the long 16th and a 12-footer on the dangerous next.
But Westwood – third, third and second in the last three major championships – kept his cool and with a birdie at the 523-yard 16th and two closing pars he posted a 14 under aggregate.
Allenby was round in 67 to take over as closest challenger, while one further back are Italian Francesco Molinari and two more Americans in Ben Crane and US Open champion Lucas Glover.
Westwood did not hesitate to admit that it had been a tough day for him.
“First and foremost I thought it was quite tricky out there”.
“The greens had firmed up and were glassy, which was quite a scary thing, but overall I was pleased with the day.
“I felt pretty confident all day, but I was surprised how much harder the course was.
“Obviously I’d love to win a major, but all you do is try your hardest and I have a lot of experience from what happened at the (2008) US Open, The Open last year and then The Masters.
“Once again I’m in with a chance. You don’t expect to win – you hope to win – but I do expect to play well.”
He might have to.
There is still a chance that Phil Mickelson will deny Westwood – just as he did at the Masters a month ago – and that the left-hander will take the world number one spot after 244 weeks at second.
Mickelson moved into joint 11th with a 66 and is five behind – just as Stenson was before charging through to win by four 12 months ago.
To go top of the rankings for the first time in his life Mickelson has to win and Tiger Woods has to be outside the top five.
That latter half of the equation seems a given.
A bogey-bogey finish for 71 left Woods down in 45th spot – and a young boy took the chance on receiving Mickelson’s autograph to point out the situation.
“Tiger, say so long to number one – kiss it goodbye,” he said as Woods walked by to hand in his scorecard.
Mickelson, nine behind at halfway, had earlier said: “I felt like things started to click a little bit (today) and I think I’ve got one more low round in me.
“I just hope that it will be enough, that I’ll be within striking distance.”
Thanks to what happened to Slocum he is.
Asked about the number one ranking chase, however, he replied: “I don’t know why you keep asking about that.
“I mean, we’re right in the middle of a tournament here and that’s the last thing on my mind right now.
“I’m trying to get ready for tomorrow’s round and you keep changing the subject.”
Woods, in the meantime, had said of his round: “I felt close to putting it together, but couldn’t get a run going.”
He is dead last in driving distance for the week and on that added: “I’m trying to hit the ball low and I’m actually so steep on it that I’m popping it up.”
The Open day four: History repeating for Louis Oosthuizen?
The South African won the Claret Jug on this day in 2010 and held a one-shot lead with one round to play this year.
The Open day three: Oosthuizen on verge of history as Spieth sprints off
Jordan Spieth ran to the practice putting green after a dreadful miss at the last left him three off the lead.
Louis Oosthuizen takes narrow Open lead into final day as Jordan Spieth falters
A third round of 69 took the South African to 12 under par and a shot ahead of playing partner Collin Morikawa.
Louis Oosthuizen maintains Open lead over closest challenger Jordan Spieth
Oosthuizen held a two-shot overnight lead thanks to a championship record halfway total of 129.
Rory McIlroy plays down club-throwing incident but admits to consistency issues
The former world number one had looked to be playing himself into contention in the third round at Royal St George’s before fading away.
Rory McIlroy frustrated after squandering ideal start to third round of The Open
McIlroy made the halfway cut with just a shot to spare after consecutive rounds of 70.
Rory McIlroy climbs up leaderboard on day three of Open
The former world number one covered the front nine in 31.
Bryson DeChambeau out early on day three of the Open
DeChambeau played his last five holes in two under par on Friday to make the halfway cut on the mark of one over.
On This Day in 2011: Darren Clarke becomes the oldest Open champion since 1967
The 42-year-old was the third Northern Irishman to win a major in the space of 13 months.
The Open day three: Louis Oosthuizen bids to follow up record-breaking start
Runner-up in the last two majors, Oosthuizen added a 65 to his opening 64 for a halfway total of 129.