Westwood targets maiden Major title

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WORKSOP’S Lee Westwood was just 19 when he first visited Sandwich - and won twice in two days.

Now, twice as old, he is back making his 54th attempt to become a major champion, the only thing his career still lacks.

Third at Turnberry in 2009 - he bogeyed the last when a par would have put him in the play-off - and runner-up to Louis Oosthuizen last year, Westwood knows he is at least moving in the right direction.

“Hopefully it’s a mathematical progression - third, second, obviously I’m hoping for a first,” he said today as a strong wind made the Kent course just the sort of tough test he wants it to be all week.

“Links golf is determined by the weather, so you don’t want it flat calm.

“These courses are designed with, I guess, a 15-20mph wind in mind. I certainly want it so ball-striking is a pre-requisite really.

“And ideally you’d like it so it’s the same morning and afternoon, but often that doesn’t work out in links golf.

“It’s the luck of the draw really. If that doesn’t happen then you’re hoping that you’re on the right side of it.

“I think more than anywhere on the Open Championship rota there are a couple of fairways out there which you can get bad breaks.

“I suppose you can get good breaks as well, but I think at some point during the week you’re going to need patience. But I’ve got plenty of that.”

He has needed it as he has kept knocking on the major door without being let in yet.

Westwood was also only a putt away from a play-off at the 2008 US Open, third in the US PGA the following year, runner-up in last year’s Masters and third in the US Open last month.

Maybe being on home soil will make the difference.

“It’s named after St George, I guess, so you can’t get much more English than that really.

“It’s obviously being played in England, which only happens every now and again, and it’s the biggest championship in the world as far as I’m concerned.

“It would mean everything really to win this championship.

“Strategically it’s a good golf course. You have to plan your way around it.

“It’s not always driver off every tee, which is quite nice. Downwind there will be a few five-irons or six-irons off tees out there.

“But if the wind gets up the green might become drivable on those holes, so it makes you think constantly and adapt to the situation.

“The rough seems pretty fair. I think because you do get a few freaky bounces out there they’ve not gone silly with the rough this year.

“There’s no excuses out there.”

He had a chance to go back to number one in Scotland at the weekend, but although Luke Donald stretched his lead at the top instead with a four-shot win Westwood’s 14th place did not knock his confidence.

“I think my form is right where I’d like it to be. I’ve been playing well just recently and had a good stretch of results.

“This is a week I look forward to all year round, so I try to gear my game up for this week.

“I’m happy with all aspects of my game, but I try not to have too many expectations. Just go out there and try my best really - we’ll see.”

It was for his victory in the annual St George’s Grand Gold Challenge Cup, first contested over 120 years ago, that Westwood’s name is displayed in the club’s entrance hall.

He had rounds of 70 and 76 to join a list of winners that included Jack Nicklaus, Francis Ouimet and two of only three amateurs ever to have won The Open - John Ball and Harold Hilton.

“I remember it being very windy and I played well - that’s about it really,” said the world number two.

“I think that year for some reason they played next door’s (Royal Cinque Ports) 36-hole tournament around here as well. I won on Saturday and Sunday that weekend.”

Clive Greaves was the Cinque Ports secretary at the time and his memory is of Westwood the person rather than Westwood the player.

Proudly displayed on the Worksop golfer’s website now are Greaves’ words: “I was very impressed by the way he handled himself.

“He spoke well at the prize ceremonies and, unlike some of his fellow competitors, obeyed without any fuss the requirements of both clubs by putting on jacket and tie when in the clubhouse.

“He struck me as an example to other young golfers.”

Two decades on Westwood now has his own academy - but he does not have a major title yet.

But he hopes he is leaving no stone unturned in his preparation.

“I’m playing about 3.30 and I’ll just have a wander around and get used to playing in a strong wind and get a feel for the golf course.

“You tend to find that most people get carried away at Open Championships, get there first thing in the morning, practise too much.

“Then there’s nobody on the golf course at 3.30-4 - it’s the best time to play.

“And hopefully come Sunday I will be teeing off about that time!”