LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England — Lee Westwood might have won that elusive first major had he not hit a tee shot into a tree on the fifth hole in the final round of the U.S. Open at Olympic Club in June.
The ball disappeared, and with it so did Westwood’s chances of getting off the list of best players never to win a major.
“You make your own luck a lot of times, but that was an unfortunate time for that to happen,” Westwood said. “It’s happened only three times in my career; once there when I was only one shot off the lead going into the last two holes in Dubai, and once in a playoff in the Malaysian Open. It’s picked its times to happen.
Westwood shouldn’t have to worry about the trees at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. There aren’t any of significance on the links course.
What he and other players will have to worry about is sand – and lots of it. There are 206 bunkers scattered around the course, or an average of more than 11 a hole. Many of them are in the fairways, making precision driving a necessity to contend in this British Open.
Not only do the fairways have lots of bunkers, they are spread out in the driving area. That should make players hit their drivers more often because the early bunkers on holes don’t let them layup with much confidence.
Westwood said the bunkers and the rough should more than make up for lack of trees.
“I think that’s part of the game of golf,” he said. “There should be penalties for hitting it off line.”
MEETING MANDELA: Tiger Woods strayed some Tuesday from golf, talking about meeting Nelson Mandela in South Africa not long after Woods burst on the golf scene in a big way.
Woods was asked by a South African journalist about the meeting on the eve of Mandela’s 94th birthday today.
“It was incredible meeting him for the first time in ’98. I got invited to his home,” Woods said. “As we walk in there and I look at my dad and I said, ‘Hey, pops, do you feel that? It feels different in here.’ He said, ‘Yeah, I feel the same way.’ ”
STEWART WHO? Stewart Cink had a memorable British Open three years ago, when he beat Tom Watson in a playoff to win his first major championship.
Apparently it was not that memorable to a guard manning one of the gates near the player’s parking lot.
The guard stopped Cink from entering, asking him for his badge. Cink told him he left it in the locker room, but that didn’t work, either. Finally, after several minutes of explaining just who he is, the guard finally let Cink and his caddie through.
SPIRIT LEVEL: Padraig Harrington has been known to do a lot of experimenting to find ways to improve his golf game.
Fans watching practice rounds at the British Open had to wonder what he was doing laying down a carpenter’s level (known here as a spirit level), though, on the greens of Royal Lytham & St. Annes. Turns out he was just trying to read the greens.
“I did go out and pick a number of pin positions on each green and took a spirit level out and measured the straight putt on basically all those positions trying to find their low point,” Harrington said.