SANDWICH, England (AP) — Lee Westwood believes he has the patience to master a “mentally frustrating” Royal St. George’s course and finally land a first major title.
When the British Open was last held at Sandwich in 2003, Westwood teed off ranked No. 266 and shot 9 over to miss the cut.
Things couldn’t be more different from eight years ago. With the Englishman No. 2 in the rankings and among the favorites to lift the Claret Jug, a more mature Westwood is confident he can master the notoriously difficult course known for its undulating fairways and potentially wicked wind.
“(There are) a couple of fairways out there which you can get bad breaks,” Westwood said. “At some point during the week, you’re going to need patience – it’s going to be tested. But I’ve got plenty of that.
“It’s mentally frustrating out there. I think that’s why people either like or dislike it. I like the golf course … it makes you think constantly and adapt to the situation.”
Tiger Woods’ fall from grace in the past two years has opened the door to the No. 1 ranking and Westwood has taken full advantage.
He ended Woods’ reign in October and has been the top-ranked player for 22 weeks since then, losing it in May to compatriot Luke Donald.
Considering his run of form in 2011 and with Woods again missing this week through injury, Westwood has a great chance to end his major drought. He’s come up short at the British Open, where he finished fourth in 2004, third in 2009 and second last year to South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen.
“I’ll just go out there and try my best really,” he said. “Hopefully, it’s a mathematical progression – third, second, obviously, I’m hoping for a first. But we’ll see.”
At 38, Westwood doesn’t think his days are numbered in terms of finally becoming a major champion.
“People would have said I was coming into my prime 10 years ago and then I dropped to No. 270 in the world, so what’s the point in guessing whether you’re at your prime or not?” said Westwood, who has racked up 21 tournament victories on the European Tour.
“I don’t particularly think it’s an age thing, either. I think so many players play well into their early to mid-40s just recently that there’s no point in thinking about it. It depends how fit you keep yourself and how mentally up for it you are. You know, you’ve got to want it still.”
Westwood hasn’t finished outside the top 20 in his last nine events on the European Tour, making him confident this could be his year on a links-style course he knows well.
“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,” Westwood said. “This is a week I look forward to all year round. I try to gear my game up for this week.
“The form is pretty good. I’m happy with all aspects of my game.”