Last Monday Lee Westwood was presented with a claret jug. Tonight he would like to be holding the Claret Jug. On arriving at Turnberry, Westwood was honoured by the Golf Foundation with its Spirit of Golf Award. It turned out the trophy was a glass and silver replica of the ancient Open Championship trophy. "It does resemble what I want to get my hands on at the end of the week," he said.
Westwood is not only a former winner of the Golf Foundation's age group competitions but – since turning professional, winning the European order of merit and contributing in record proportions to victories over America – the 36-year-old has been a tireless supporter of the organisation's attempts to find future Open champions. Westwood has also launched his own series of junior academies, which is what you will find him doing this coming week.
But before he sets about inspiring the golfers of the future, there is the little matter of his own quest to become an Open champion. Nothing would boost the development of the game more than a first British winner since Paul Lawrie 10 years ago, or in the case of Westwood and Ross Fisher, a first English champion since Sir Nick Faldo won the third of his titles in 1992. Imagine the wonder on the faces of the juniors Westwood will be coaching this week if he could show them the actual Claret Jug.
First things first, however. Westwood goes into the last round perfectly poised at two under par after a third round of 70. "I've played sensible, conservative golf and put myself in contention," Westwood said, concentrating on the positives rather than a closing bogey. "Emotionally, I feel very calm and the plan is to be patient. I don't have to think that I have to do too much. I just need to plot my way around the course as I have been and try to finish one in front."
Last year, Westwood showed real resolve at major championship level when at the US Open he finished just one stroke outside the play-off in which Tiger Woods beat Rocco Mediate. Westwood has never been much of a contender in the Open but his two top-10 finishes, including a fourth place in 2004, both came just up the Ayrshire coast at Royal Troon. Clearly, the air in these parts suits him.
Over the first two days, Westwood had to deal with the maelstrom of accompanying Woods and Ryo Ishikawa, the rising star from Japan. The Worksop man took it all in his stride and, in fact, showed Tiger exactly where he was going wrong.
Westwood's driving has always been first class and no one hit more fairways over the first two rounds – he was tied first with Fisher and Ernie Els. He was also high up in the driving distance list. By contrast, Woods, clearly uncomfortable on a course that demands far more precision from the tee than many other layouts, could only find two-thirds of the fairways that Westwood did. The Englishman birdied his first three holes on Thursday but a more important asset has been grinding out the pars.
Yesterday he arrived on the first tee with expectation and a huge roar from the gallery. But the lack of photographers, compared to the first two days, was momentarily a surprise. "I thought they had been there for me, but obviously not," he joked.
As a serious point he reckoned being forced to focus so intently on simply what he was doing right from the start of the Championship had been a good thing. There was no let-up now. Immediately, he sent drives down the middle of the first two fairways but found a bunker off the third tee which would cost him a dropped shot.
But then he steadied with a series of pars, even at the par-five seventh where he had dropped a shot – it felt like two at a hole with birdie potential – on Friday. As then he was in the gallery right of the green in two strokes and then left his recovery pitch short of the putting surface. This time he got up and down and the pars continued.
If the chances that slipped by, as at the 11th, were getting to Westwood he showed no sign. Instead he hit a wonderful approach to the 12th green and tapped in for a fine three. He was still three strokes off the lead at that stage but when he two-putted from just short of the 17th green for a birdie-four, he was suddenly tied for the lead.
At the last, his approach with an eight-iron from 203 yards came up short in a nasty mound of rough. He could only move the ball a foot with his initial recovery attempt but then got down in two more to limit the damage. On such moments does the winning, and losing, of a Claret Jug depend.Reuse content