Lee Westwood is at peace with who he is and his station in the game of golf. Instead of wringing his hands and filling himself with recrimination for “losing” one of the best chances he ever had to win not only his first Major, but the British Open, he calmly accepted what happened and moved on:
I wanted to end on the 18th green right now, that’s pretty obvious. No, I didn’t really play well enough today. I didn’t play badly, but I didn’t play great. It’s a tough golf course, and you’ve got to have your “A” game. I missed a few shots out there.
He had three plugged lies in bunkers in three holes and made two bogeys in the process. The effect of that was to give Phil Mickelson hope and as we now know, he drove a truck right through Westwood’s vulnerable play. His winning score was 3-under, the only player to break par:
Going from 3-under back to 1-under. Just halted my momentum a bit. Phil obviously played well. He shot the round of the day, 5-under par, I think. And birdied four out of six. That’s a pretty special finish in a Major championship.
But Westwood stuck to his game plan of focusing on his own game, making as many birdies as he could and then take a look at the leaderboard late to see what he needed to do:
I was concentrating on my own game, trying to make as many birdies as possible and as few bogeys.
And the home crowd was doing their best to spur him on:
I was getting good support myself. No, I had no idea what was going on until the end. The 15th green I looked at the leaderboard, but that was about it.
But by then, Mickelson’s stellar play — his best round ever, he said — had locked up the Claret Jug, save for miracles that never came.
Sometimes you play well and somebody plays a bit better, and sometimes you plays poorly. I didn’t really do either today and Phil obviously played well. But you’ve got to play well to give yourself your own momentum, and I just couldn’t get there today.
I felt pretty comfortable out there. I felt good on the greens. I rolled a lot of putts. I was unlucky a couple of times on the greens, run it close. But some days it just doesn’t happen.
Could he have done better if luck had gone his way instead of against him? Not really and he was honest with himself about the root cause of his loss:
You make your own luck. I hit a poor tee shot at 3 that cost me a bogey. I had a poor tee shot at 7. Hit it in the rough at 8. Put it in the rough at 9. I hit a poor tee shot 13 and a poor tee shot 16. So there really wasn’t any luck involved. I just didn’t hit good shots when it mattered.
In the end, he takes a positive, cup-half-full attitude with him as he heads back to his new Florida home:
I putted lovely this week. I made my fair share. So there was a lot of positives to take out. I didn’t really feel like I had my “A” game. I didn’t feel like I was striking the ball well. I was amazed to be in the lead going into the fourth round, because every time I turned into the wind I was really struggling.
He also left with the same healthy sense of perspective that he arrived with:
I’m not too disappointed. I don’t really get disappointed with golf anymore. I’m a philosophical person. It just doesn’t wind me up or get to me anymore.
And with good reason:
I finished top three in a Major championship. I would like to have won, but you can’t not take positives from top three in a Major.
You always want to be last off on Sunday in a Major championship. And for me to be last off in The Open Championship, I think was a probably new experience. I don’t think that’s happened before on a Sunday. And I really enjoyed it. It’s obviously where any professional golfer wants to be.
And he wouldn’t have changed a thing that he did, because it’s pointless and you can begin to undermine your judgment if you take that line too far:
I wouldn’t have done anything different for breakfast or carried three markers in the pocket instead of two. I never second-guess myself. So there’s no point in doing it, you just do what feels right at the time.
There was just something special in Westwood’s comportment all week long. He never seemed to be particularly nervous; he seemed fully in his role as one of England’s two best players [Justin Rose currently the best with Poulter on the rise and Donald on the wane] and felt no pressure:
Not at all. It’s a Major championship. It obviously means a lot and you go out there and try your best, but there was no pressure.
If this is really true that he experienced no pressure, it was another exceptional accomplishment for the week. And, as with all great players, he moves on always looking forward:
Yeah, I keep putting myself in contention. I didn’t do a lot wrong today. I just didn’t do enough right. I know what I’ve got to work on.
With that attitude and the year-round good practice weather in Florida, look for his big barrel chest to be bursting with pride in the not too distant future.