Westwood: ‘Tiger raised my game’
Lee Westwood believes he is ready to make his major breakthrough at Turnberry on Sunday.
Lee Westwood believes he is ready to make his major breakthrough in the 138th Open Championship at Turnberry on Sunday and says that if he does, he will owe a debt of gratitude to world number one Tiger Woods.
The Englishman shot a second successive round of 70 to remain two under for the tournament, just two behind veteran American Tom Watson – winner of the Claret Jug on the Ailsa course in 1977.
With Woods having missed the cut, Westwood will not have a better chance of securing his first major title, having come so close just over a year ago at the US Open.
There he entered the last day playing in the final group with Woods, just one shot ahead, and matched his American opponent stroke-for-stroke.
Both had putts on the 18th green to reach a play-off with Rocco Mediate, Woods’ dropped but Westwood’s did not, leaving the European Ryder Cup star to reflect on what might have been.
Fast-forward 13 months and Westwood found himself drawn with Woods and Ryo Ishikawa in the marquee group of the opening two days.
In all the commotion surrounding Woods and Ishikawa – who has a huge following back home in Japan – Westwood went virtually unnoticed.
However, while his two playing partners both failed to make the cut, he is joint fourth with 18 holes to go.
“I think the more experiences you have, the more equipped you become to handle most situations and deal with most things that come at you,” said Westwood, who went through a two-year career slump from 2001 when he slipped from world number four to outside the top 250.
“I would probably suggest I’ve experienced more in golf than most people out there playing. I know what it’s like to play both ends of the string, I suppose.
“But having been in contention at the US last year and played that last round with Tiger and learnt a lot I can carry that on through to tomorrow.
“And I think being paired with Tiger (this week) probably focused me more than I would normally, because there was so much going on.
“I needed to have, you know, almost 110% concentration rather than the usual 100 per cent.”
Westwood added: “I’ve put myself in position a few times before and I’ve learnt from those experiences.
“I played really quite well the last round of the US Open and I’ll be trying to play as well, if not a bit better.”
That third place at the US Open remains Westwood’s best finish in 46 majors and he believes patience and will be the key to success on Sunday.
The Worksop golfer would have been in a better position had he not bogeyed the 18th after his approach found thick rough on the front right of the green.
He admitted that was his mistake and pledged to ensure there were no similar errors on Sunday.
“I’ve just been trying to play myself into position and I’ve managed to do that,” he said.
“I have to be very patient and try not to make too many mistakes out there.
“I had a slight blip at 18 where I hit it too far left. Billy (Foster), my caddie, told me to keep it right of the flag and I got sucked into going at the flag.
“It was my error for going at the flag. It’s one of the few times that I slipped away from my game plan of middle of the greens all day.
“You just have to try and plot your way around this golf course and not squander too many shots because strange things happen out there on the golf course.”
Westwood is not getting too far ahead of himself but admits he enjoys the adulation from a home crowd.
“I don’t think there’s a much better walk in golf, certainly a British golfer, than the walk on to the 18th green in an Open Championship,” he said.
“It’s an unbelievable reception.”
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