Lee Westwood not worried about Tiger factor
Teeing off with Tiger Woods on the last day of a major doesn’t intimidate Lee Westwood in the least.
So what if Woods is 13-0 at majors when teeing off with the Sunday lead?
“It’s not any concern who I’m playing with in the last round,” said Westwood, a 35-year-old, five-time Ryder Cup veteran who will try to become the first Englishman to win the U.S. Open since Tony Jacklin in 1970.
Westwood does have some cred. He’s the only player to beat Woods when he led by more than one shot going into the final round of a tournament.
“It’s better to have done it than not done it,” deadpanned Westwood, who trailed Woods by two shots at the 2000 Deutsche Bank-SAP Open in Germany and finished four shots ahead. “So, yeah, it does mean something, yeah.
“Well, we weren’t playing together. I was playing in the group in front, I think,” Westwood said. “I shot a 64 that day, so hopefully I can do the same tomorrow.”
The most consistent golfer in the field so far, Westwood carded a 70-71-70 for a 2-under 211, one stroke behind Woods, who rallied Saturday with a 1-under 70 to take the lead on his last shot of the day.
It took two long eagle putts and a chip-in birdie by Woods on the back nine to deny Westwood the 54-hole lead.
Not that those remarkable shots bedeviled Westwood, who figures he’s playing some pretty amazing golf himself, especially for a guy who had to take two weeks off before the Open, instead of one, because of a nagging cold.
Unable to hit as many balls as he wanted, “I kept my expectations low,” Westwood said. “And it’s sometimes easy to go out when you don’t have any expectations. You just free-wheel and play how you should play, one shot at a time.”
Westwood is among only three players under par on a Torrey Pines South Course that’s a test of both golf and grit.
“I’ve driven the ball pretty well. My distance control on irons has been pretty good. I’ve played away from the flags when I needed to,” Westwood said. “I’m thinking my way around the golf course. That’s the best part of my game.”
Westwood, who once plummeted from fourth in the world ranking all the way into the 200s during a prolonged slump, is back up to No. 20 and climbing.
He has won 29 tournaments around the globe but just once on the PGA Tour— the Freeport McDermott Classic a decade ago—“so I’ve proven I can win tournaments.”
For his Sunday showdown with Woods, Westwood said he’ll tap into his experience playing in the Ryder Cup and in the final groups at the 2000 and ‘05 Opens, when he was in seventh place heading into the last round. He tied for fifth in ‘00 and was T-33 in ‘05.
“If you let it get to you, then you have problems,” Westwood said. “But I’m a fairly calm person and fairly levelheaded, so I’ll just stick to my own game plan and try to keep doing the things I’m doing.”
He said the Ryder Cups have prepared him for the pressure and partisan crowds he’ll be facing.
“Obviously, when we play across here in the States, the crowds are mainly on the American side. (When) I play with Tiger in the last group, I would imagine they’re on his side and not mine,” Westwood said. “But those sort of things have not bothered me too much. I’ll go out in a good frame of mind.”