SAN FRANCISCO – Sometimes the scars beat you down and make you weaker, sometimes they make you stronger.
Meet Lee Westwood. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. He’s contended in more majors over the last four years than anyone else. He’s won none of them. He’s known as the best player never to have won a major championship. It does not bother him.
Doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to win. Means he’ll be content if he never does.
“It's a golf tournament,” Westwood said Saturday at the U.S. Open where he vaulted into contention with a 3-under 67 to stand at 2-over-par overall. “I go out and play golf for a living on the best golf courses in the world in the biggest tournaments. It's not a bad way to pass time.”
Westwood admitted that he didn’t prepare much heading into this U.S. Open. Sure, he won the Nordea Masters in Sweden last week but that was on a soft course that couldn’t be more different than The Olympic Club.
He showed up earlier this week and played a couple practice rounds then was thrown into one of the Open’s marquee groupings Thursday and Friday with Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy. Hemade double bogey on his opening hole Thursday and quickly snapped into U.S. Open mode. Since that first hole he’s played the next 53 holes in even par with nine birdies and nine bogeys, including five birdies Saturday for 67.
“I played nice for the first two days without too much reward but I that at 5 over par I was still not out of it,” Westwood said. “So as long as I shot a good score today then I was going to have a chance come Sunday.”
So, here Westwood is again – in contention. He has seven top-three finishes in major championships dating back to the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. So many close calls without success can be enough to drive a man batty. For Westwood, it only drives him.
“I'm half-full-glass-type person. Actually my glass is normally empty,” Westwood quipped, talking about his appreciation for a frosty adult beverage every now and again.
Westwood makes light of the situation but at 39, he doesn’t have a lot of time left to collect major loot. To be considered one of the best in his era he needs to win a major. He’s been ranked No. 1 in the world before, a major championship is the only thing missing.
He’s learned lessons from each of the previous defeats and he says he’s tried to apply those lessons to every major. At this point, there can’t be much more to learn.
“I pick little bits out of all of those, but the main this is just to go out there and believe that I’m good enough,” Westwood said. “I must be, I keep getting myself into contention often enough.”
That answer is almost not acceptable anymore. He’s contended at every major so there isn’t one that suits him more than the others. Aside from the ’08 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, Westwood tied for third place last year at Congressional, although he was never in contention because McIlroy rolled. He was second place at the Masters toPhil Mickelson in 2010 and tied for third place there again this year. He tied for third at the 2009 British Open and was second at the 2010 British Open. He tied for third place at the 2009 PGA Championship, which Y.E. Yang ultimately won.
You get the picture.
“Somebody might perform better, winning is so fickle,” Westwood said. “All I'm trying to do is play as good as I can play and get into contention and see if I can finish it off and have a bit of fun doing it.”