It’s easy to forget that Lee Westwood entered the 72nd hole of last year’s British Open trailing Tom Watson by one stroke. Westwood’s drive detoured into a fairway bunker, and the best he could do was sky his approach to the front of the green.
Thinking he needed to hole his birdie putt from 45 feet to catch Watson, Westwood ran it 6 feet by and missed the comebacker for his third bogey in the final four holes. Westwood missed a playoff by one stroke after Watson’s putt for par also drifted wide.
It turned out Westwood only needed a two-putt to make a playoff. (England’s Chris Wood also bogeyed the last hole to miss a playoff by a shot, while winner Stewart Cink birdied it to keep his hopes alive.)
Westwood was also an afterthought to a famous playoff in the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, when he needed to match playing partner Tiger Woods’ birdie on the 72nd hole to tie Rocco Mediate. But Westwood drove his tee shot on the par 5 into … a fairway bunker, forcing him to lay up and removing a possible winning eagle from the equation. He then missed a 20-foot birdie putt for the tie.
“Both are pretty sickening, but obviously this is the Open Championship, and it’s the one that means the most to me,” said Westwood after last year’s British Open.
Westwood again put himself in position to win his first major at this year’s Masters, holding the 54-hole lead. But then Phil Mickelson blitzed him on the back nine Sunday, and Westwood finished in second, three shots back.
Coming into the U.S. Open, Westwood was a — if not the — favorite, because of his knack for being there until the bitter end. But winning the previous week’s St. Jude’s Classic in a furnace — via a playoff no less — took its toll. The possibly jet-lagged and worn out Westwood took himself out of the contention in the first five holes by going 4-over.
Westwood’s dropped off the radar a bit since with a weird calf injury that sprung up in his right leg, forcing him to skip the Scottish Open and leaving his status for the British Open in question. Westwood is bandaging his ruptured calf muscle with tapes and wraps this week.
“Apparently it’s six to eight weeks recovery time if you put your feet up. But, obviously, with the biggest tournament on the calendar this week, I can’t really afford to do that,” Westwood said.
Westwood has no idea what caused the injury, and only offered that it’s because he’s been playing professional golf for the past 17 years.
“When I try and go up on my toe and then twist, I’m using it then and it’s kind of stretching it out and feels uncomfortable,” he said. “The very last part, I’m just a little bit apprehensive.”
But with a reduced practice load this week on a course that he already knows well, Westwood is still optimistic about his chances.
“These things happen. You can’t control when they happen,” Westwood said. “It’s frustrating that it’s the Open Championship. If I don’t play well this week, I won’t put it down to the injury. Obviously, it doesn’t help. But I’m hitting the ball well, feel like I’m very comfortable on these greens. So, you know, I’m still hoping for a good week.”
And when Westwood was reminded that Padraig Harrington won the 2008 British Open with a bum wrist that almost forced him to withdraw, he smiled.
That’s the old saying, isn’t it? `Beware the injured golfer,”’ Westwood said. “Hopefully that will ring true.”