GULLANE, United Kingdom – Lee Westwood was poised to end 18 years of majors misery on Sunday as he took a two-stroke lead into the final round of the British Open at Muirfield.
It was at the 1995 Open at St Andrews, when he tied for 96th, that the Englishman first played in one of golf’s four major tournaments.
Since then, 60 further major tournaments have gone by for him and he has seen highs and lows, but no player in the world has been as consistent as he has been over the last five years.
Still the ultimate success has eluded him and he has been coined as golf’s nearly-man with 10 top-10 finishes in his last 20 majors, including runner-up showings at the 2010 Masters and British Open at St Andrews.
But after moving his family from England to Flordia last winter to ensure he can play and practise year-long, Westwood finds himself in pole position to reap the dividends at one of golf’s most fabled venues.
The 40-year-old Westwood believes that his time has come.
“Even though I haven’t won a major, I know what it takes to win one. It’s just a case of going out there tomorrow and having the confidence in my game, which I’ve got. And putting it to the test,” he said after firing a one-under 70 in Saturday’s third round.
Westwood insists he is not feeling the pressure, which is just as well as one look over his shoulder would reveal a star-studded chasing pack led by world number one Tiger Woods.
Woods is tied with fellow American Hunter Mahan, two strokes adrift of Westwood, and like the Englishman he needs to do something he has never done before on Sunday.
All of the American’s 14 major wins have come when he was leading or sharing the lead after 54 holes. He has never won one when trailing going into the final round.
Woods, whose last major win came at the 2008 US Open, said experience will be key to his chances of finally winning from behind.
“I’ve got 14 of these things (majors), and I know what it takes to win it,” he said after his third round of 72.
Also well in the hunt are Masters champion Adam Scott, alone at even par, two former Masters champions, Angel Cabrera and Zach Johnson, on one over and four-time major winner Phil Mickelson at two over.
All it needs is for one of them to conquer the deadly mix of pot bunkers, bouncy fairways and super-fast greens that are the trademark of the great East Lothian links.
The forecast was for more sunshine in the afternoon accompanied by a stiffening seaside breeze drifting in from the Firth of Forth.
Early scores indicated that there were birdies to be had.
New Zealander Mark Brown had three birdies in the first five holes, and 2009 Open champion Stewart Cink and Irishman Shane Lowry were also three under after 12.
Westwood and Mahan were due to be the last pairing out at 2:10pm (1310 GMT) with Woods and Adam Scott, whose caddie is Woods’ former bagman Steve Williams, going out 10 minutes before them.