US Open 2013: Wicked pins leave Lee Westwood feeling like a basket case

 

Merion

There are words beginning with the letter W that Lee Westwood doesn’t mind. Wedge, wind, wage and wood come to mind. Worksop is fine. It ought to be. It’s where he was born and lived until he moved recently to the United States.

But the word wicker is a no-no. Don’t mention it in Westwood’s company. Not after what the wicker basket atop the flagstick on the 11th hole did to both his ball and his momentum in the first round. The wicker baskets used instead of flags at Merion are famous throughout golf, as distinctive as the flagpole at Royal Lytham, the Swilcan Bridge at the Old Course, the Barry Burn at Carnoustie.

Such is their attraction that the club has to bring them in each night and lock them up to prevent people stealing them. Such is their fame, they might be better known than the course where they are so distinctive, better known than the bunkers, which are nicknamed the “white faces of Merion.”

But Westwood would probably be happy if he never saw one again. As far as he is concerned the shepherds who used to keep their food in such baskets on the end of their crooks to stop the sheep nibbling at their lunch when they weren’t looking had the right idea. Keep them away from a golf course and certainly from a green.

In his opening round Westwood was going along very comfortably, three under par, when his approach shot on the 11th ricocheted off one of these baskets and raced off the green back down the fairway. It was a piece of very bad luck and wouldn’t have happened if there had been a flag made of canvas fluttering on the end of the stick. He was three under par at that stage. Suddenly his forward momentum stalled and though he had a round of 70 he wondered “what if?”

Westwood had no such adventures with a wicker basket in yesterday’s third round, which he began at the 11th in a three-ball with Carl Pettersson and Paul Lawrie. He was striking the ball well, looked assured and managed not to let himself be disrupted by Pettersson’s wayward play.

The Swede was 50 yards offline on the short 17th and hit a tower containing several TV studios from the tee of the 18th. Westwood’s start was not as good as John Senden’s as he birdied the first two holes, but it was steady enough.

It has been said so often Westwood must be tired of hearing it that while he is a wonderfully accurate driver and a good iron player, he is poor around the greens. “If only his short game matched his long game” is something you often hear. Westwood’s move from Worksop late last year when he, aged 39, uprooted his wife and children and took them to Palm Beach, Florida, was motivated by his desire to be able to play and practice in better weather conditions than he endured in the winter months in Nottinghamshire.

On the 17th, his seventh hole, he gave a demonstration of this part of his game. It didn’t look rusty or weak. In fact it looked rather good. He had 25 feet to the flagstick from where his ball lay in very light grass. It was slightly downhill and the green was very fast. In other words, it was just the sort of shot to test a man with a supposedly suspect short game. Westwood slowly swung his wedge, caught the ball crisply so that it flew perhaps 10 feet in the air before rolling to the side of the hole, where he sank his putt for a par.

He had a similar shot on the 18th after his second had trickled over the back of the green. This one was much easier. The green was flat and he was 50 feet away. But it still required deftness, soft hands, and Westwood had them. This time the ball ghosted up to the hole, but this time he missed the putt for a par.

“I’ll be alright at the Open,” Westwood had said after his second round, a 77, that was just good enough to keep him in action over the weekend.

“Peter Dawson [chief executive of the R & A who organise the Open] has assured me they have no intention of changing the flags at Muirfield to wicker baskets.”

News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
scienceHad asteroid hit earlier or later in history, the creatures might have survived, say scientists
News
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
scienceBumping fists rather than shaking hands could reduce the spread of infectious diseases, it is claimed
Voices
voices
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
arts + ents
Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth GamesJust 48 hours earlier cyclist was under the care of a doctor
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
arts + entsFilmmaker posted a picture of Israeli actress Gal Gadot on Twitter
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel
arts + entsPrince Oberyn nearly sets himself on fire with a flaming torch
News
Danny Nickerson, 6, has received 15,000 cards and presents from well-wishers around the world
newsDanny loves to see his name on paper, so his mother put out a request for cards - it went viral
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
News
Orville and Keith Harris. He covered up his condition by getting people to read out scripts to him
People
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana stars in this summer's big hope Guardians of the Galaxy
filmHollywood's summer blockbusters are no longer money-spinners
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Life and Style
Workers in Seattle are paid 100 times as much as workers in Bangladesh
fashionSeattle company lets customers create their own clothes, then click 'buy' and wait for delivery
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried