July 18, 2009

Outside Looking In

In position to capture his first major championship, Lee Westwood instead was forced to watch the Open playoff from afar

Lee Westwood led for much of the final round, but wound up with another close call at a major.

Lee Westwood led for much of the final round, but wound up with another close call at a major.

TURNBERRY, Scotland -- For a time, it looked as if it was Lee Westwood's time. Sure, the sentimentalists were pulling for 59-year-old Tom Watson to win the British Open, but Westwood appeared ready at 36.

Westwood took the lead with an eagle at the seventh hole in Sunday's final round, but trailed Watson by a stroke entering the 72nd hole. A three-putt from 45 feet after driving into a fairway bunker had Westwood wondering "What if?" before Watson lost a playoff to Stewart Cink.

"Gone from frustration to sickness," Westwood was able to smile. "Yeah, it was a tricky two-putt at the last."

Westwood charged the first putt six feet past the hole. "I thought I'd have to hole it, to be perfectly honest," he said. "I didn't see Tom bogeying the last ... but he obviously got a bogey there."

That made it all the more difficult to reconcile missing the six-foot comebacker, which Westwood pulled. That kept him from joining the playoff after Watson followed with a bogey 5 at the last. Westwood's birdie at the 17th wasn't enough to overcome bogeys at 15 and 16 before the final three-putt. "I bogeyed three of the last four, when you look at it," he said.

It's not Westwood's first disappointment in a major. Last year in the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, he missed a birdie putt on the 72nd hole that would have put him into the Tiger Woods-Rocco Mediate playoff.

"Both are pretty sickening, but obviously this is the Open Championship, and it's the one that means the most to me," said Westwood.

Fellow Brits Ross Fisher and Chris Wood had their chances as well. Fisher took the lead with a birdie-birdie start but made a quadruple-bogey 8 at the fifth after hitting his tee shot right, leaving it in the long grass with his second and then pulling his third into an unplayable lie on the left. Wood, who tied for fifth in the Open last year at Birkdale as a 20-year-old amateur, also bogeyed the 18th to miss the playoff by a stroke.

After watching Cink and Watson, Westwood knows the value of perseverance, and he's already looking ahead to the PGA Championship at Hazeltine. Asked when he might expect to challenge again, he answered, "Hopefully, about four weeks."