A record of two Open Championships played and two missed cuts at Royal St George’s might not inspire confidence but Lee Westwood says he has begun to fall in love with the Sandwich course this week.
Westwood failed to make the weekend in both 2003 and 2011, although he did win an amateur tournament at the course, and admits he headed into The 149th Open week with limited expectations.
However, a couple of practice rounds – including one with Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Danny Willett on Tuesday – have changed his mood and now the 48-year-old is relishing the Championship ahead.
“I've played here twice in the Open Championship, missed the cut both times,” said Westwood. “I kind of had in my head a bit of a mental block that I didn't like the golf course but I played it yesterday and really enjoyed it.
“I loved the way it was set up. I couldn't really remember the golf course too much, probably because I didn't have that much experience of playing on it, only having played two rounds each Open!
“I enjoyed the conditions, had good company to play with in Dustin, Rory and Danny and it sort of turned my head around and made me look forward to the week even more really.”
STAYING AT THE TOP
Despite approaching his 50th birthday, Westwood is still among the upper echelons of the golfing world, even if he admits the consistency that saw him record 11 major top-ten finishes between 2009 and 2014 is no longer there.
He credits a dedicated regime to look after his body, similar to the one that Phil Mickelson has used to become the oldest major champion in history by winning the 2021 PGA Championship at the age of 50.
And as he approaches his 88th major start – the most in history without a victory – the Englishman still believes he can win tournaments when everything clicks.
“If I get my game where it needs to be and it's good for that week I can contend,” added Westwood. “I don't know when it's going to be in the right place or when I'm going to hole enough putts though.
“You just kind of load the dice, give them a roll and what happens, happens.
“Me and Phil are from a generation that's had the benefit of sports medicine and things like that, maybe a little bit more analytical and knowing what's going on.
“Tiger came on the scene and everybody took that a little bit more seriously in the mid to late '90s.
“The other players that wanted to get ahead of the game looked to him and focused on that more 20 years ago, put some effort in and you're seeing the benefits of that now.
“It is not just an ‘I've been working out for six months thing and this is a quick-fix thing’, it’s a long-term thing.
“Also, when you get to our age, we maybe don’t treat it as seriously as we once did and it’s easier to play better when you’re more flippant and see golf for what it is – getting a small ball into a small hole.”