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2013 British Open: Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood chasing history at Muirfield

With 18 holes to go at the Open Championship, pair of golfers within striking distance of personal milestones

By Ron Green Jr.

GULLANE, Scotland Forget chasing Jack Nicklaus.

Tiger Woods is chasing Lee Westwood at the Open Championship at Muirfield, and they’re both chasing their own bit of history.

While Woods has spent five years trying to add a 15th major championship trophy to his collection, Westwood has spent 40 years building to this Muirfield moment.

Westwood, who leads Woods and Hunter Mahan by two strokes with 18 holes remaining, has been teased by, flirted with and ultimately been disappointed by golf’s most seductive prizes in a career that has produced 39 victories but none in the championships that most matter.

Nine times Westwood has finished in the top five of a major championship. Phil Mickelson beat him with a 6-iron through the trees at the Masters three years ago. Tiger Woods beat him by a stroke on a broken leg at the 2008 U.S. Open. A bogey on the 72nd hole beat him at the Open Championship at Turnberry in 2009.

Like Princess Kate, he’s due and Great Britain is waiting.

“I have had lots of chances…so I know what it takes,” Westwood said early Saturday evening as a chill began to settle over Muirfield.

Westwood has learned the hard way.

Woods has created a legacy in finding ways to win majors. Westwood has created a wonderful life with an incomplete trophy case.

It’s possible Mahan or Masters champion Adam Scott or someone else will win today but this championship feels centered on Woods and Westwood.

They share the same swing coach – Sean Foley – but they’re different.

Woods is cold and clinical, a technical master with a bullfighter’s flair for the kill. Westwood has been the definition of solid but lacking a spectacular short game.

Woods generally answers questions as if he’s in a deposition.

“I’m pleased with where I’m at,” Woods said after a late bogey knocked him out of Sunday’s final pairing with Westwood. “I’m only two back and there’s only one guy ahead of me.”

Westwood cracks jokes.

Asked about any pressure he might feel Saturday evening, Westwood said, “Actually, I’m not in a high-pressure situation because I’m going to go have dinner and I’m so good with a knife and fork now that I don’t feel any pressure at all.”

When the laughter subsided, Westwood opened a window on his thoughts.

“I’ll think about winning the Open Championship (Saturday) night at some stage, I’m sure. I don’t see anything wrong with that…picture yourself holding the Claret Jug and seeing your name at the top of the leaderboard.”

It has already been a summer of celebration for sports fans in the United Kingdom. Scot Andy Murray won Wimbledon and now Westwood, who lived in England for the first 39 years of his life before moving his family to Florida for the sake of his golf career, has a chance to win the Open Championship.

Westwood’s quest has added an emotional undercurrent to a championship that had been more about Muirfield than the players before Saturday.

When Woods and Westwood were introduced on the first tee by the Open’s official voice – Ivor Robson – Woods was greeted warmly. Westwood was greeted with a throaty roar and it continued around the course and through the afternoon.

If Sunday is like Saturday and the two days before that, this Open Championship will be decided by which player can best handle Muirfield’s sun-baked puzzle. Baked-out and brown, Muirfield straddles the borderline on fairness, though it was half a squeeze softer on Saturday.

Asked if he had considered the possibility of not winning a major championship in his otherwise brilliant career, Westwood didn’t blink.

“It’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t (happen),” Westwood said.

Another major moment awaits.

Ron Green Jr. is senior writer for Global Golf Post (www.globalgolfpost.com) and a contributor to the Charlotte Observer. He can be reached at rongreenjr@gmail.com.
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