Friday, March 7, 2014
The Associated Press
GULLANE, Scotland — Lee Westwood is positioned to win the first major title of his career.
Lee Westwood gestures on the third tee box during the third round of the British Open at Muirfield, Scotland on Saturday. Westwood has a two-shot lead entering Sunday's final round.
Boy, does that sound familiar.
Long considered one of the best players without a major victory on his resume, the Englishman curled in a 60-foot eagle putt on the way to a 1-under 70 Saturday that put him two strokes ahead of Tiger Woods and Hunter Mahan.
The 40-year-old Westwood has been a perennial contender in golf's marquee events, finishing second or third a staggering seven times.
But he's never been able to finish the job. He'll try to do it Sunday at baked-out Muirfield, playing in the final group with Mahan.
Westwood made it sound like no big deal.
"Well, 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," he said, smiling. "I'll think about winning the Open championship tonight at some stage, I'm sure. I don't see anything wrong with that, picture yourself holding the claret jug at the final tee and seeing your name at the top of the leaderboard."
And, he added, "when it comes time to tee off around 3-ish, I should be in the same frame of mind as I was today. I didn't feel any pressure and felt nice and calm out there and in control of what I was doing."
Woods will be in the next-to-last pairing after shooting 72, a stumble at the end leaving him two shots behind Westwood's 54-hole total of 3-under 210.
They are the only three players under par for the championship.
"I'm pleased where I'm at," Woods said. "There's only one guy ahead of me."
Adam Scott is again a contender for the claret jug, though this time he'll have to come from behind. Last year, he seemed to have it wrapped up at Lytham until he bogeyed the final four holes, a stunning collapse that left him one stroke behind Ernie Els.
Scott matched Westwood's 70 and was at 213.
At least the Aussie doesn't have the burden of not winning a major. He took care of that in April with a playoff win at the Masters.
"It's a good feeling to sit here in this position, absolutely," Scott said. "It's completely different. I go out there tomorrow not carrying the weight of the lead or not having won a major. So it's a different feeling."
Miguel Angel Jimenez, the popular 36-hole leader, faded from contention on a miserable day. The Mechanic bogeyed four of the first eight holes, unable to scramble for pars as he did the first two days when his drives and iron shots got away from him. He limited the damage with birdies at the ninth and 13th, but things can turn quickly at Muirfield.
Jimenez bogeyed the 14th, took a double-bogey at the 16th when he needed two swings to escape a towering pot bunker alongside the green, and a lipped-out putt on 17 gave him another bogey. The 49-year-old staggered to the finish with a 77 and 216 total, his one-shot lead after Friday now a six-shot deficit going to Sunday.
Those closing holes were crucial.
One shot ahead of Woods, Westwood faced the possible three-shot swing at the 16th when he yanked his tee shot into the tall grass, far left of the green, and Woods plopped his ball about 20 feet away from the flag on the right.
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