The Open 2013: Major 'positives' for Lee Westwood but Tiger Woods speeds to the excuses

Westwood let a two-shot lead slip away as Phil Mickelson pulls-off the 'best round of my career'

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The Independent Online

Having played in 61 of golf’s Majors over a period of 17 years, finishing second twice but never capturing one of the sports four top titles Lee Westwood has become something of a specialist in ways of playing down expressions of disappointment.

And despite the huge let down of  signing for a 75 after going into the last round at Muirfield with a two shot lead last night he put on the bravest of faces in front of the media with not the slightest hint of a self pity.

“I am not too disappointed,” he said. “I don’t really get disappointed with golf any more. I am a philosophical person and it doesn’t wind me up or get to me any more.

“My assessment of the week ? Great. I finished top three in a Major Championship. I would have liked to have won but you can’t not take positives from top three in a Major.

“You always want to be last off on Sunday in a Major Championship. And for me to be last off in The Open Championship was probably a new experience. I don’t think that’s happened before and I really enjoyed it. It's obviously where any professional golfer want to be.”

However when Westwood was asked about his shortcomings in a round that contained five bogeys and only one birdie he did run through six holes where he hit poor drives which either found Muirfield’s knee length rough or one of  its many steep faced bunkers.

“I didn’t play really well enough today,” he admitted. “I didn’t play badly but I didn’t play great. It’s a tough golf course and you have got to have your 'A' game out there. I missed a few shots.”

If Westwood was not going to win a lot of money was laid beside Tiger Woods name but he could only shoot a 74 and rather than blame himself for extending a run without winning a Major that now stretches back to 2008 he offered veiled criticism for the way the course was set up by the Royal and Ancient.

Early in the week it had been hard, fast and brutal after Scotland'S recent heatwave. Yesterday Muirfield was covered in overhead clouds and after hand watering the previous two nights some of the fierce bite had been taken from it.

“I had a hard time adjusting to the speeds,” he said. “ The greens were much slower today, much softer and I don’t think I got too many putts to the hole today. I really had a hard time and left myself a couple of long lag putts early on.

“It was frustrating. I played well. I could just never get the speed right. We started on the first day and it progressively got slower. And that’s usually the opposite at tournaments – it usually gets fast as the week goes on but this week was different.

“But I am very pleased with the way I am playing. There’s no doubt I am right here. I hit a ton of good shots this week and the only thing that I would look back on is that I just never got the speed after the first day.”

There were similar stories of shortcoming Masters winner Adam Scott but they were accompanied of an appreciation of the way winner Phil Mickelson covered the final nine holes in just 32 shots making four birdies over the last six holes when tricky winds were blowing off the nearby Firth of Forth.

And the left hander knew he had achieved something extra special just a week after winning the Scottish Open. “This is just an amazing feeling winning this great championship and to play probably the best round of my career.

“Winning Castle Stuart (his first win in the UK) at the time was a big win for me but in seven days it has gone down considerably. But it gave me the confidence heading  into this week , it was exactly what I need to propel me into this Championship. It gave me the confidence that I could play some of my best golf on links conditions.”

Thanking his family and caddy for their support and his coach Butch Harmon for a lesson on the range on Friday, Mickelson was also pleased to have bounced back so quickly after losing a third round lead on the final day of the US Open at Merion last month.

“It’s a huge difference in emotions as you can imagine,” he said in a message that Westwood would understand. “You have to be resilient in this game because losing is such a big part of it. After losing the US Open it could easily have gone south where I was so deflated but I looked at it and thought I had been playing some really good golf and I didn’t want it to stop me from some potential victories this year.”

After the platitudes offered by the winner and the big named losers it was left to 18-year-old Matt Fitzpatrick, the Yorkshireman who won the silver medal as best amateur, who proved the best story of the after Open press conferences.

Asked about the support he gets from members at the Hallamshire golf club he said : “ I think I am a bit more popular now because they managed to move the TV in the clubhouse from the spike bar to the main lounge which has been a problem for a while.”