Unfazed, Close, but Just Short
Monday, June 16, 2008
SAN DIEGO, June 15 -- Lee Westwood was 20 feet from another round at Torrey Pines South and an opportunity to win his first major championship. The Englishman needed to make a putt of that length at the 72nd hole to force a playoff at the U.S. Open.
As playing partner Tiger Woods watched from off the green, Westwood readied his putter and sent the ball rolling. It swung left, then came back right before settling a foot from the hole.
Twelve more inches, and Westwood would have joined Woods and Rocco Mediate in 18 extra holes Monday. Instead he'll have the long flight across the Atlantic to reconcile the near-miss.
"Well, it's sickening not to be in a playoff tomorrow," he said, "but all in all I played pretty good all week, and if somebody said you're going to have a chance from 20 feet for a playoff on Monday, I would have probably taken that at the start of the week."
Westwood handled the trappings of playing in the final pairing with Woods perhaps better than most of his peers would have. That's because Westwood is one of the select few who can say he beat Woods with the 13-time major champion leading after three rounds.
Woods, who made his birdie putt at 18 Sunday to force a playoff with Mediate, is 43-3 on the PGA Tour and 50-6 worldwide when holding a three-round lead.
Westwood trailed Woods by two shots entering the final round of the 2000 Deutsche Bank-SAP Open in Germany and won by four shots. They did not play in the same group during the final round of that tournament, and Westwood shot a 64 for the comfortable victory.
"It's better to have done it than not done it," Westwood said of beating Woods. "So yeah, it does mean something."
Westwood had dropped into the 200s in the world rankings after rising to first on the European tour's Order of Merit in 2000. The dependable Ryder Cup performer's steady climb back to the sport's elite included relying less on teachers and more on tenacity.
"Because at the end of the day, sitting in the middle of the 18th fairway with a 5-wood, there's no coach telling you what to do," Westwood said.
Westwood had been playing efficiently over the first three rounds at Torrey Pines. His five bogeys during that span were the fewest in the field, he did not make a double bogey, and he did not shoot above par in any of those rounds. His 2-over 73 Sunday was his worst round.
After beginning the day 2 under, Westwood made bogey at No. 1. He steadied himself thereafter with seven straight pars, then made birdie at No. 9 to take the lead at the turn.
"I was aware I had the lead after nine or 10, I guess," Westwood said. "But I saw Rocco made a couple of birdies, but I could have played my way out of it completely."
He almost did just that when bogeys at 10, 12 and 13 sent him to 1 over for the tournament, but he carded a birdie at 14 and three consecutive pars before reaching the par-5 18th. There he drove into a bunker on the right, blasted into the fairway and hit a wedge onto the green to set up his birdie attempt.
"I'm struggling even to think who is in the playoff," Westwood said moments following his round. "It's not really in the front of my mind, to be brutally honest. . . . So while I'm disappointed, I'm pleased with myself, and I think that I've proved to myself and a few others that I think there is a major championship in me."