Lee Westwood flew to San Francisco yesterday with high hopes of making it three European wins in a row at the US Open. The Englishman warmed up for the tilt at following Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy by storming to a five-stroke victory at the Nordea Masters in Sweden. It was his third win in the event in three different decades, his 22nd on the European Tour and his 40th worldwide.
"I'll tee off on Thursday with a lot of confidence," said the 39-year-old world No 3, who will play the first two rounds at the Olympic Club with Luke Donald and McIlroy, the only two players who are ahead of him on the rankings. Westwood has been down this road before, of course, and disappointment has followed. This will be his 57th attempt to buck the trend and land a major.
Back in 1998, his first win in America came a week before The Masters and he was only 44th at Augusta. Two months later he arrived at Olympic Club a fortnight after capturing the English Open and finished in a tie for seventh, then he triumphed at Loch Lomond before travelling to Birkdale for The Open and was 62nd there.
In 2000, he won in Sweden and, on his next start two weeks later, had to settle for 15th at the USPGA Championship, while two years ago his second PGA Tour victory came in Memphis, and seven days later he was 16th in the US Open at Pebble Beach.
Westwood, who has had top-three finishes in six of his last 10 majors, could do no more than he did at Stockholm's Bro Hof, however, and the new irons and new putter he used for the week are almost certain to remain the clubs of choice in California.
"I think that they've earned the right to stay in," he said. "You're never too sure first time in the bag, but you don't win tournaments by five shots without playing really well. I missed a few short putts, but you just have to stay patient; sometimes you don't have to do as much as you think."
It was the Worksop golfer's first win for a long while without Billy Foster as his caddie. He is out for the summer after injuring a knee in a football kickabout, and Westwood was quick to praise the calmness of New Zealander Mike Waite, his stand-in.
Ross Fisher, Westwood's fellow Englishman, came second a week after being penalised a shot and fined £6,000 for slow play in Wales. Spain's Sergio Garcia, Sweden's Peter Hanson and Mikko Ilonen, of Finland, finished joint-third. Garcia, Hanson and Ilonen have all booked their places in the US Open, but Fisher failed to qualify.