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Lee Westwood goes for broke, and goes bust

The Briton declines to play it safe on 18th green, hitting a long birdie attempt eight feet past the hole, and ends up three-putting for a bogey that kept him out of playoff.

July 20, 2009|Chuck Culpepper

TURNBERRY, SCOTLAND — If Tom Watson might wince for years to come whenever mulling old No. 18 at Turnberry in 2009, so might Lee Westwood, whose decision there Sunday added to his gathering collection of near-misses in majors and surely stoked a pub debate or several.

Standing maybe 60 feet from the cup at two under par with Watson at three under and back on the tee, Westwood eschewed the safe two-putt. "I thought I'd have to hole it, to be perfectly honest," he said. "I didn't see Tom bogeying the last, since he's such an experienced player."

When his screamer raced eight feet past the hole and he missed the comeback for par, he felt "frustration," he said. And when ill luck wrought Watson's bogey, Westwood felt "sickness," he said. A systematic two-putt would have earned him a slot in the playoff.

Westwood is the same 36-year-old English golfer from Worksop who at Torrey Pines in the 2008 U.S. Open missed a difficult 15-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole that would have delivered him into a playoff. He has played 47 majors. He has top-six finishes in all four of them. He's among the phalanx of British players trying to break a 10-year drought in majors.

After an eagle at No. 7 on Sunday, he briefly led by two.

Now he's comparing disappointments, saying of Torrey Pines and Turnberry, "Both are pretty sickening, but obviously this is the Open Championship and the one that means the most to me."


Just sink it

In the minds of golf zealots before Sunday, the name Stewart Cink probably would have conjured the 18-inch putt Cink missed on the 72nd hole of the 2001 U.S. Open at Southern Hills. That situation proved similar to Westwood's, in that Cink had just made a good go of a 12-footer to elevate into a playoff with Retief Goosen, and his careless tap-in miss gained meaning only after Goosen three-putted from 12 feet.

"It lingered a little bit," said the U.S. Ryder Cup player. "It was embarrassing. . . . You put yourself out there in front of the world stage, and sometimes you're going to be embarrassed a little bit. But now hopefully I can move past it."


Good Wood

A British Open at 20, another at 21, and finishes of fifth and third, the latter one shot from the lead? Really? Yeah, that's the record of Chris Wood, the 6-foot-5, 21-year-old Englishman who excelled promisingly in soccer until he woke up one day at age 14 with a bone loose in his knee and saw that dream crumble in favor of another.

In fact, had he not bogeyed No. 18 similarly to Watson on Sunday, Wood also would have joined the playoff.

"I've never hit a nine-iron 210 yards in my life," he said, but his approach to No. 18 streamed right on through the green.

"So probably a bit of adrenaline. . . . It just absolutely went miles."

Yet the first-year professional and 2008 low-amateur medalist said, "Yeah, it's weird to say I'm only 21 and I've contended in two majors already."


Italian stylin'

While Wood loomed on the leaderboard at 21 in a tournament so centered on age, so did Matteo Manassero, the Italian 16-year-old amateur who wowed the galleries and briefly bobbed upward almost to contention before finishing at two-over 282, among 11 players sharing 13th place.

For now, Manassero plans to spend the next three years finishing school per his parents' wishes, but in playing alongside Watson -- 43 years his senior -- on Thursday and Friday, Manassero grew familiar, even though he reckons he'll never attract the attention Italy ladles on soccer stars.

"To get close to them would be great," he said.


The story of U.S.

Five American golfers placed in the top 26, including the two in the playoff. The 1997 champion Justin Leonard found a commendable 68 and finished tied for eighth, Jeff Overton followed his Saturday 76 with a Sunday 67 and tied for 13th, and Boo Weekley had four rounds no worse than 72 in joining that tie for 13th. John Daly went 68-72-72-72 for a tie for 27th, and drew loud applause on No. 18.


No pregnant pause

The potential saga of whether Ross Fisher would have to walk off the course if his wife went into labor with their first child never did come to pass and became moot quickly, even though the 28-year-old Englishman did hold a three-shot lead after three holes and said, "I've tasted being the leader of the Open Championship, so it's pretty cool."

Within minutes after that lead, Fisher played possibly the most demoralizing hole anybody played all day, visiting the foliage on both sides of No. 5, taking a penalty and ending up with a quadruple-bogey eight that helped arrange a 75.

Jo Fisher had not gone into labor as of the evening, and no, he had not texted her from No. 5 and asked her to do so.


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