Lee Westwood shrugs off close calls, takes aim at major championship history

Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

Lee Westwood shrugs off close calls, takes aim at major championship history

2019 British Open

Lee Westwood shrugs off close calls, takes aim at major championship history

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PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland – Lee Westwood has nothing to fear.

The expectations that a player of his talents would eventually put it all together at the right time and win a major championship have largely come to pass.

He’s 46 years old now, one of the best to ever do it without a major on the resume. A victim of timing, fortune and costly misfires in a game cruel enough to allow 18 top-10 major finishes without a single trophy to show for it.

Westwood says he’s fine with that. This week’s British Open at Royal Portrush is just his third major appearance over the last two years, as opportunities continue to dwindle with no long-term exemptions.

Funny thing about opportunity, though. You never know if or when it might come knocking one final time.

Looking impossibly relaxed with girlfriend Helen Storey on the bag, Westwood shot 4-under 67 in Round 2 to move into a tie for third at 7 under overall.

Here we go again.

“I’m 46 years old and still competing with these young lads, won last year,” Westwood said. “So there’s no pressure on me. I just go out there and have fun.”

He may or may not be aware that he’s also attempting to become the oldest first-time major winner in golf history, a feat currently held by Jerry Barber for his 1961 PGA Championship victory at age 45.

Taking Westwood at his word, all the close calls — including a remarkable eight major finishes inside the top 3 — haven’t resulted in any deep soul searching or regret.

“I’ve always had the theory that I can only go out there and try as hard as I can, try to do the right things at the right times,” Westwood said. “And if that’s not right then that’s not right. Over the years I’ve been a very good player, and I’ve been in lots of high-profile situations at times.”

Westwood’s victory at last year’s Nedbank Open was his first on the European Tour since 2014 and one of more than 40 international victories all-time. He’s also shown signs of life in recent weeks on the links, finishing T-23 at the Irish Open and T-10 at last month’s BMW International Open.

He knows the game is still good enough to win if it comes together at the right time, but he insists he’s not yet thinking about winning at Royal Portrush and all that would come with it. Too much golf left.

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Nor does he think about blowing another opportunity to redefine his career and reach the pinnacle later in life than any player ever has.

“I’ve never felt under that much pressure, to be honest,” Westwood said. “You lads write about it. I’ve always gone out and done my best. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen, and if it doesn’t, just go home and have dinner, go on holiday the next week. Do the same things. Life won’t change.”

Westwood snuck into the interview area just as an early-afternoon rain began to fall, fortunate to beat the weather and find himself on the good side of the draw. It’s one of those random things, totally out of a player’s control but relevant enough to swing their chances in either direction.

“Sometimes I feel like I’ve been on the wrong side of the draw,” Westwood said. “This week I feel like I’m on the right side of the draw. And you have to take your opportunities when it arises.”

Especially when one knows it very well could be their last.

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