Expect Westwood to win major, says T. Watson
LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England (PA Sport) -- World No. 3 Lee Westwood might not have discussed how to win his first major with his third-round playing partner Tom Watson on Saturday, but eight-time major champion Watson is convinced that Westwood will break through.
Westwood's 71 was five shots better than the 76 carded by Watson, who at 62 is 23 years his senior. But it still dropped Westwood back to 4 over and so far back as to render a challenge for the Claret Jug almost impossible on Sunday's final day at Royal Lytham.
With Westwood's 40th birthday arriving next April, he finds himself constantly answering questions about how much time he has left.
It is not the sort of inquiry he looks on particularly favorably and there was no mention of it on the fairways with the five-time Open champion.
"We didn't talk about that," said Westwood. "I've played a lot with Tom -- I first played with him in Japan in 1996 -- and we chatted a lot.
"He is a pleasure to watch and play alongside, the crowds love him and he is a great ambassador for the sport," he added. "I don't really try to pick up any tips, but it's nice to watch the way he swings the club because he still swings it lovely."
Watson, who dropped to 9 over after sneaking into the weekend with a birdie at the last on Friday, was most complimentary about his playing partner's qualities.
"Lee is a wonderful guy in every way and is a really fine player," said Watson, who won the last of his eight majors at age 33 with a victory in the 1983 Open Championship. "I wish I could have inspired him with my play, I think I dragged him down with my play.
"Of course I see a major win in him. He's knocked at the door too many times not to win," he stated. "The only advice is you just have to shoot lower than everyone else in the tournament.
"He will be there again, I expect him to win a major championship," he added. "He has a lot of talent, has a variety of shots, and hits the ball with authority and he plays a lot like I do - very fast."
Westwood was not happy with his game heading into this week and once again failed to hit top form in the third round. He had three bogeys in his first six holes and despite correcting matters with four birdies in his next nine, he slipped up with two bogey fives at 16 and 18.
"I got off to a poor-ish start and it wasn't really going my way but I dug in and made a few birdies and hit it close," said the Ryder Cup player. "I birdied 15 to get to 1 under for the round but had a poor finish.
"I hit it to a terrible spot on 16 with my second shot -- a schoolboy error going long there -- and 18 I three-putted off the back but there was a chance of that because it is a cunning flag and it's quick from there," he continued. "I've not done anything differently this week, but I came in not hitting it great and I've continued not hitting it great and that's the reason I'm four over par and not better.
"Nothing has been up to scratch this week. I've not holed enough putts, my short game wasn't great the first couple of days, and I haven't hit it close enough although I've hit plenty of fairways," he said. "You need all of your game to be in shape to play one of these weeks."