After his long-overdue victory in Memphis on Sunday, Lee Westwood awoke here on the Monterey peninsula yesterday with a few more firsts to tick off on an ever-more realistic wish-list.
Not only is the Englishman vying to become the first European to win the US Open in 40 years but he will also be trying to become the first player in history to lift the trophy having prevailed the week before. And all this in the company of the man who happened to triumph by 15 strokes the last time America's national championship was held here.
Except everybody knows that the Tiger of 2010 is not the Woods of 2000 and most in the game accept that Westwood is just as unrecognisable. With top-three finishes in the last three majors, the 37-year-old has established himself as a big-time performer, albeit without the golfing Oscar he deserves. "The reason I've been knocking on the door so often in the majors recently is because I've finally learned the knack of how to peak for them," said the world No 3.
Could it be Westwood peaked a week early with his play-off victory over Robert Karlsson in the St Jude Classic? It was not the question to be asking a pro celebrating his first American trophy in a dozen years. Alas the record books are not so diplomatic. Only eight players have ever backed up in the majors - and nobody has yet done so in the major known as the game's toughest. "That is of absolutely no concern to me," said Westwood, who will also be joined by Ernie Els in Thursday's marquee three-ball. "I like being competitive before a major and to win will only boost my confidence. Obviously, Memphis was a little bit draining, especially with the temperature there. But because I've done most of my preparation, I can take it easy for the next three days."
Yes, Westwood is very thankful for the reconnaissance trip he made here last Sunday and Monday when he and Billy Foster, his caddie cum plotter-in chief, played 45 holes. "I just don't turn up any more and spend three or four days bashing my brains out to learn as much as I can about the course," he explained. "It meant I was almost 'golfed out' by the time the tape went up. No longer and not here. When I looked at the four majors at the start of the year, I felt straight away Pebble would offer me my best chance. So having gone so close at Augusta [where he finished second], I'm entitled to look forward to a big week at the US Open." Him and his country, both.
What an American campaign this has so far been for England. Just think, before 2010 they had never boasted two winners in the same PGA Tour season. Here we are in June and they already have three. Not only that but with Justin Rose victorious in Memphis eight days ago, they have knocked two off in successive weeks. Little wonder the English have arrived here so confident of breaking their 14-year major drought. In Westwood there is such an impressive flag-bearer.Reuse content