PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland – Lee Westwood is 46 years old, and he hasn’t factored in a major in years, but perhaps never before has he been in a better frame of mind at a big tournament.
Much of that credit belongs to his fiancee, Helen Storey, who is on the bag in a major for the first time.
Lugging around a heavy staff bag stuffed with extra golf balls and rain gear, Storey has helped keep Westwood on course during rounds of 68-67 that put him only a few shots off the lead heading into the weekend at The Open.
“I’m 46 years old and still competing with these young lads,” he said Friday. “So there’s no pressure on me. I just go out there and have fun.”
The Englishman has nine top-3 finishes in majors, but during the prime of his career he was never able to stretch across the finish line. It seemed as though his time had passed – this is just his third major appearance in the past two years – but he’s been revitalized since linking up with Storey after his split with longtime looper Billy Foster.
“She doesn’t know much about golf, but she knows a lot about the way my mind works,” he said. “She keeps me in a good frame of mind and focusing on the right things at the right time. There’s more to caddying than carrying and getting the wind direction.
“I enjoy doing it myself. Get the yardage, pull the club, it’s all my responsibility, and I’m 100 percent clear in my mind what I’m doing.”
This week has been particularly pleasing for the couple – especially with bunker rakers assigned to each group. That frees them up to discuss only the most important topics, such as where to dine that evening and where to vacation later this year and, um, “whether there’s a nail file in the bag,” Westwood said.
“You’d be surprised the sort of things we talk about out there,” said Westwood, who then shared a story of the first time they worked together, a few years ago in Denmark. After Westwood took a massive divot on the soft course, Storey retrieved the piece of turf and returned to the bag with an uncertain look on her face.
“What’s wrong?” Westwood asked.
“I hope there’s not a worm in this,” Storey said.
“It makes me smile,” Westwood said. “It’s a big advantage.”
Editor's note: Updated July 20 at 6:24 a.m. ET