GULLANE, Scotland – Lee Westwood, with the weight of Great Britain on his broad shoulders, stared Tiger Woods in the face Saturday at the British Open and beat him by two shots. That margin is significant because it’s the margin Westwood carries into the final round Sunday searching for his first major championship.
Westwood has always been one of the game's best ball-strikers. If golf didn’t have putting, he’d have won a major by now. But putting, obviously, is a huge part of the game, and it’s something he’s never been able to conquer.
Westwood made clutch putt after clutch putt during the third round at Muirfield and out-dueled Woods head to head. It's the eighth time in the last 13 occasions in which they have been paired together that Westwood has shot the lower score. Woods has done it four times, and they tied once. On Saturday, Westwood shot 1-under 70 on a windy day and Woods recorded 72. Westwood stands at 3 under par; Woods and Hunter Mahan are at 1 under.
The biggest momentum swing of the day came, oddly, in the form of a Westwood bogey. The Englishman blew his tee shot wildly left at the par-3 16th hole and the ball found some thick hay. He hacked out and failed to reach the green. His third shot ended 20 feet from the hole and he made the bogey putt while staring double bogey directly in the face. Westwood birdied the par-5 17th while Woods made bogey, so now Westwood will sleep on the overnight lead at a major for the first time since he entered the final round of the 2010 Masters on top.
“I’m hoping it’s going to turn out differently because I haven’t won one yet and I’d like to win one,” said Westwood, who has seven top-three major finishes in the last five years. “You can only do what you think is right and put all that practice and hard work you’ve done tomorrow, try not to get in your own way mentally and just focus on the job at hand and believe you’re good enough.”