|Stewart Cink raises his arms in triumph after capturing the British Open for the first major championship of his career. (Mike Blake/Reuters)|
Westwood again just misses playoff
TURNBERRY, Scotland - Two years. Two putts to get into a playoff. Two misses.
Only this time, Lee Westwood didn’t know it.
After playing an astonishing shot from a deep fairway bunker at the final hole at Turnberry yesterday, Westwood left himself with a long birdie putt he thought he needed to stay in contention for the British Open.
At last year’s US Open at Torrey Pines, he failed to sink a putt on the final green to miss out on the title. Yesterday, the 36-year-old Englishman watched Stewart Cink beat Tom Watson in a playoff after shooting a 1-over-par 71 in the final round.
With Watson a shot ahead at 3 under going to the last hole, Cink was already in the clubhouse at 2 under. Westwood believed he had to make the 60-foot putt and attacked the pin. He sent it 10 feet past, missed that, and slipped out of contention at 1 under.
“I’ve gone from frustration to sickness now,’’ Westwood said after finishing tied for third.
“I figured - I thought I’d have to hole it, to be perfectly honest,’’ Westwood said. “I didn’t see Tom bogeying the last, since he’s such an experienced player. But he obviously got a bogey there.’’
Five-time British Open winner Watson and Cink were tied at 2-under-par 278 and headed for the playoff. Westwood, who almost made an 18-foot eagle putt at the 17th, was left to think about another missed chance in a major.
At Torrey Pines, Westwood had a 15-footer to force a playoff with Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate. He left it short and finished third.
“Both are pretty sickening, but obviously this is the Open championship and it’s the one that means the most to me,’’ Westwood said. “Third place is not to be sniffed at in a major championship. But [the feeling is] disappointment, really.
“I was pretty happy with the way I played all day, hit lovely shots. I made some good up-and-downs when I needed to. The putts on 16 and 17 I thought I’d made. And the biggest disappointment is, obviously, three-putting the last.’’
Westwood said he didn’t think his tee shot at the 18th had gone into the fairway bunker.
“I thought it had actually gone down the fairway,’’ he said. “It must have gone back and curled back in there. I hit a great shot out of the trap but didn’t finish it off.’’
On a final day when the lead changed almost hole by hole, Westwood appeared to be well in contention. A birdie putt from 18 feet at the sixth and a 15-foot eagle at the seventh helped him to 2 under at the turn. But he bogeyed three of his last four holes, and his eagle putt at 17 appeared to be going in but stayed right.
“You know, you’ve just got to keep working,’’ said Westwood, who finished fourth at the 2004 British Open at Troon. “I’m putting in the hard work at the moment, and it’s obviously paying off because I’m getting closer.’’
“I’ve another 28 of these to come back to,’’ Harrington said, alluding to Open champions invited back until they are older than 60.
Harrington opened steadily with a 69, but he struggled when the wind arrived off the Ayrshire coast. The 74 was a setback Friday, the 76 Saturday knocked him out of contention, and he closed with a 73.
“It had to come to an end at some stage,’’ Harrington said. “I know I will come back and compete in many more Opens and win some more majors.’’
It was the second time this year he has gone for three in a row at a major. At the Masters, he was trying to join Woods and Ben Hogan as the only players to win three straight majors. He wasn’t close at Augusta National, either. Harrington has been slowed all year from spending too much attention on his swing, and not enough to scoring.
He is getting closer, but time is running out.
“The key now is to be ready for the PGA, and that’s really what I’m looking at,’’ he said. “I believe my game will be good and strong going into that, and that’s what I’ve got to aim for.’’
Harrington will be the defending champion at the PGA Championship, played next month at Hazeltine outside Minneapolis.
Watson wondered if Harrington was making a mistake by trying to shorten his swing. The Irishman appreciated the tip, but said that wasn’t the case.
“I’ve never tried to shorten my swing,’’ he said. “That’s obviously something you guys have come up with to try to analyze it. I’m a great believer that your swing finds its natural length, as Tom Watson’s swing has found its natural length. It is very nice that he would take time out and give a helping hand, but obviously, he’s got the wrong information, as many people have.’’
He was a 20-year-old amateur last year at Royal Birkdale when he tied for fifth, which made him eligible for this British Open. By matching the low score of the final round, a 3-under 67, Wood wound up one shot out of the playoff and tied for third.
“Last year I think helped me an awful lot today,’’ he said. “It’s weird to say I’m only 21 and I’ve contended in two majors already. The experiences I’ve got out of the Open, they’re going to be amazing for my career.’’
This finish gave him a chance at a third major.
The top four at the British Open are eligible for the Masters, so Wood will get his first trip to Augusta National.
Wood played the final round with Justin Rose, which was a small coincidence. Rose was the low amateur at Royal Birkdale in 1998.
“We both won a silver medal, and both sort of made our names in the Open, really,’’ Wood said. “To play with him on the last day when we both had a chance was pretty good.’’
Rose shot 70 and tied for 13th.
His success rate isn’t nearly as high, however.
Woods has won all 14 times he has had a 54-hole lead, while Nicklaus was 10-2, losing only to Charles Coody in the 1971 Masters and to Watson in the 1977 British Open at Turnberry.
Watson is now 6-7. Until yesterday, the last time he had failed to win with a 54-hole lead was in the 1987 US Open at the Olympic Club, known as the “Graveyard of Champions.’’
The British Open exempts anyone finishing among the top 10 the previous year. Goggin tied for fifth, while Aiken and Johnson finished another stroke behind.
British Amateur champion Matteo Manassero took bogey on the last hole, missing the top 10 by one shot.
“First time,’’ Lawrie said. “I’ve not holed it before at a par 5. I just hit a nice 4-iron, and I saw it go in, too, which was nice.’’
It helped offset the triple bogey he made five holes later at the 12th, and Lawrie wound up with a 68.
That wasn’t the only big shot of the final round.
Thomas Levet, who lost a playoff at Muirfield seven years ago, made a hole-in-one on the 15th hole on his way to a 71.
Kevin Sutherland holed his shot for an eagle from the fairway at No. 5, the second-toughest hole in the final round. He was on the first page of the leaderboard until taking a quintuple-bogey 9 on the 14th. Sutherland wound up with a 75.