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Lee Westwood has fond memories of Carnoustie, having won the Dunhill Links Championship there in 2003. (Photo: Getty Images)
Lee Westwood has fond memories of Carnoustie, having won the Dunhill Links Championship there in 2003. (Photo: Getty Images)

Westwood in comfort zone, contention at Carnoustie

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You won't find many players who feel comfortable at Carnoustie, but Lee Westwood feels right at home at the Open Championship. So much so that the Englishman sits on 1 under par after 36 holes and ready to challenge for his first major.

By T.J. Auclair, Interactive Producer

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- The words "comfortable" and "Carnoustie" aren't often used in the same breath. But after a superb 1-under-par 70 in Friday's second round of the 136th Open Championship left him at that same total for the tournament, England's Lee Westwood uttered those very words.

"I've always enjoyed Carnoustie. It's probably one of my favorite links courses and I obviously feel very comfortable out there," said Westwood, who won the 2003 Dunhill Links Championship, a portion of which was played at Carnoustie. "I'm looking forward to the weekend. It's very demanding, especially the ending, but it's the most prestigious tournament of the year so it ought to be demanding coming down the stretch."

That ending Westwood speaks of consists of the three closing holes: No. 16, a 245-yard par 3; No. 17, a 433-yard par 4; and No. 18, a 444-yard par 4 that crosses the dreaded "Barry Burn."

Through two rounds, Westwood has negotiated that string in 2 over par, taking bogey at No. 16 on Thursday and bogey at No. 18 on Friday.

"I've felt more comfortable on a golf course than standing on 18 at Carnoustie," he laughed. "It's not the most pleasant tee shot and the second shot doesn't improve much. It's not really a mental challenge [the closing holes]. If someone offered you even par on the last four holes you'd definitely take it. It's not really a mental challenge, you've just got to play conservatively and try not to hit it into any trouble."

While closing out the first two rounds hasn't gone as well as he would like, Westwood will bring some good memories of hole Nos. 14 and 15 into the final two rounds. In the first round he eagled No. 15, a 459-yard par 4, by holing a 227-yard approach with a 5-iron. On Friday, from the same yardage, he cozied a 2-iron to within 15 feet of the cup at the 515-yard par-5 14th hole and knocked in the putt for his second eagle in as many days.

"Momentum is what golf is all about. You either need to create it, or find someway of getting it," Westwood said. "I managed to do that yesterday with the holed 5-iron at No. 15. You know, 1 over par wouldn't have felt that great, but level par felt good. Today, again, I hit two great shots -- a driver and a 2-iron to 15 feet -- on No. 14 and I made that putt. The other putts I've been missing and fortunately they're going in now."

As is the case with any links course, the conditions have been ever-changing at Carnoustie through the first 36 holes, evidenced by Westwood's varying club selections. Heavy rain is expected for the weekend and while it will certainly take its toll on scores, Westwood said it's something he can't be concerned with.

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"It seems to have been bad for a long time. We get used to it. The great thing about links courses is that you can play on them when the conditions are off," said Westwood, whose best finish in an Open Championship was fourth place at Royal Troon in 2004. "We can't do anything about the weather and we just have to accept what it throws at us. I don't get too flustered about it. It's good when the weather is bad at a major as they are the sternest tests in golf. Whatever comes at you, you have to stay cool and calm and not make mistakes."

Just like all of his mates, Westwood is looking to become the first European to win a major championship since Scotland's Paul Lawrie turned the trick here in 1999 -- a span of 31 majors without a win for the Europeans. It would also mark Westwood's first major win in a brilliant career during which he has bagged 17 victories on the European Tour, most recently at the 2007 Valle Romano Open de Andalucia in May.

When he finished his round, Westwood was five shots behind clubhouse leader Sergio Garcia and felt like he was right in the middle of things.

"I think anything in under par, or level par, or even 1 over, is in contention," he said. "With the weather that's thrown at you and the challenges the last few holes present out there, almost anybody who makes the cut could be in contention."

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